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Chapter Six

The Fifth Phase 1815 to 1823 

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

Click on links below to go the various sections; click on top to return to top of page


Character of the Period ............................................

The Split......................................................................

(June 1815 to December 1817) ...............................

The Turn of the Tide

(1818 to 1820) .........................................................

The New King

(1820 to 1821) .........................................................

The Marquis Wellesley as Lord Lieutenant

(January 1822 to April 1823) ..................................


Character of the Period

            The chief features of this phase were the divisions among the Irish Catholics, the fruitless appeals to Rome to get the veto removed, and the general disenchantment of the Members of Parliament with the Irish Catholics. O’Connell said that the struggle for Emancipation should be given up, and efforts concentrated on achieving Parliamentary Reform. In this Sheil opposed him. Ward gives a description of the years from 1816 to 1820 when the agitation of the Catholic Question produced small results in Parliament. It was a period of inactivity in every department. There was a general fear that the revolutionary spirit might revive. Lord Liverpool’s ministry was weak, and there was a dread of all change, manifested by the secret committee to deal with the disaffection of the English nation, which led to the suspension in England of Habeas Corpus [1817]. There was a growing demand for reform and there was the trouble and unrest brought about by the era of manufacture. There were riots led by radicals in 1816, and 1817, culminating in the ‘Peterloo massacre’ in 1819. Bad harvests and high food prices made life difficult for the working classes. Henry Addington (Lord Sidmouth) was Home Secretary and was responsible for the passing of the repressive ‘Six Acts’ in 1819 that among other things restricted the right to hold public meetings

 All these helped to obscure the question of Catholic Emancipation. There was also the reaction to the fiasco of 1813, producing a natural disinclination to re-open the question by preparing a fresh bill. The votes in Parliament went against the Catholics and it was evident that they had lost ground. On the other hand, the agitation was continued, and the question was raised in Parliament year after year. It must have been evident to the impartial observer that the question would sooner or later have to be faced and a permanent settlement of some kind arrived at.

            Those who were agitating became more definitely divided into two parties. One was led by O’Connell, the leader of the popular party in Ireland, and demanded unqualified Emancipation. It was only when this group lost all credibility that a reunion with the moderate party became possible. The other, represented by the English Catholic Board and by the ‘seceders’ in Ireland, possessed the influence of rank and title, very important in those days, and seemed to have a better chance of success. In 1821, they even had a Bill passed through the Commons, but it was lost in the Lords (Ward II). It should be noted however that unqualified Emancipation was only finally granted because the strongly Protestant Peel did not wish to recognise any power of the Pope. This was an outcome that could never have been foreseen, and the final campaign for Emancipation from 1824 to 1829 was successful because all agreed to seek Emancipation without insisting that it be unqualified.

            During this period however, while Ponsonby, Grattan, and George III died, the general atmosphere in Parliament gradually swung round again to favour the Catholics. The wilder spirits among the Irish Catholics had their wings clipped. William Conyngham Plunket took Grattan’s mantel as the protagonist of the Catholics, and the outlook was brighter at the end of the period than at the beginning.

            On the other side there was an awakening of Protestantism, and an anti-popery spirit was growing which was to develop in the last period into positive anti-Emancipation and anti-popery campaigns.  [Top]


The Split (June 1815 to December 1817)

            [July August 1815] An editorial in the pro-Catholic anti-Government paper, the Dublin Evening Post gives a clear idea how the Catholic Ultras viewed the situation. This view was to become common among Catholic nationalists though there is little evidence to support it. According to the Post (26 August 1815) the Pope had received money from the British Government on leaving Fontainebleau, and envoys were speedily sent by the Government to congratulate the Pope. Castlereagh secured not only the restoration of the Papal States, including the Marches and Legations. He then sent Poynter and Bentinck to explain to the Pope that only a few fractious Irishmen were holding up the boon of Emancipation. Cardinal Litta thereupon sent a letter to the Irish telling them to accept the Pope’s decision. It is obvious from what has been written so far that this was a complete distortion of facts. Frederick Conway at this period was not so careful at checking his facts as he became later. But even later in life he was inclined to accept letters at face value if they coincided with his own prejudices.)

            The British Government was not seeking Emancipation, nor was it seeking any control over Catholic priests. Lord Liverpool and many of the cabinet were opposed to the whole idea. Nor was it trying to secure diplomatic relations with the Holy See. It preferred to see the Papal States restored to the Pope because the alternative was to have them annexed by either Austria or Naples following the example of the French. Its attitude in 1815 was no different from what it had been in 1793.  The only thing the British Government was seeking was the abolition of the Slave Trade in a lawful and peaceful manner, and the Pope had no difficulty in assenting to and giving his support to this. (Slavery as such was not condemned in the Bible, and Saint Paul sent a runaway slave back to its owner. It could only be condemned on religious grounds if manifest injustices appeared in the system.) The Slave Trade was still supported by the Catholic powers. The courtesy and generosity shown to the Pope was no greater than that shown to the exiled Bourbons or the émigré clergy. Poynter only went to Rome at the request of Dr. MacPherson to counteract the malicious stories Milner was spreading. Castlereagh’s attitude was that if others introduced a measure for Emancipation he would support it only if it contained Securities. He himself played no part in the discussions regarding the veto though apparently he was aware of it (Webster).

            Rumours, started apparently by a letter published in the Cork Mercantile Chronicle on 2 August, began to circulate in Dublin that Troy had received a letter from Rome (Buschkuel). The Irish bishops met on 23 August and a deputation from the ‘Catholic Voluntary Association’ waited on them. Dr Sugrue of Kerry was appointed the spokesman of the bishops, and he informed the delegates who called on him that the document merely stated what the Pope was prepared to concede should Emancipation be granted. As O'Connell found this answer satisfactory we can be sure that Troy's language was diplomatic in the extreme. The headings of the letter from Litta to Troy dated 23 April 1815 said that the [Quarantotti] Rescript was null and void; it set out various forms of the oath of loyalty; it would not consent to the examination of correspondence by the crown; it was prepared to concede a negative veto (DEP 17 August 1815). Nevertheless there arose a ferment in certain quarters against any veto. Milner was now saying that the veto should be accepted, and wrote to this effect to the Irish bishops. Though marked ‘private’ the letter was published. The Irish bishops published the Resolutions passed at their meeting stating clearly that they would oppose ‘in every canonical and constitutional way any Government interference. (This of course did not mean, and was never intended to mean, that they would oppose any definite decision of the Pope. It just meant that they would argue the case until the Pope came to a final decision.) One of their Resolutions used rather remarkable language,

‘Though we sincerely venerate the Supreme Pontiff as visible Head of the Church, we do not conceive that our apprehensions for the safety of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland can or ought to be removed by any determination of His Holiness, adopted or intended to be adopted, not only without our concurrence, but in direct opposition to our repeated Resolutions and the very energetic memorial presented on our behalf and so ably supported by our deputy, the most reverend Dr. Murray’.

 Had this been written by any of the vicars apostolic it would have been denounced by Milner as Gallicanism. It was decided once again to send representatives of the bishops to Rome to put the case of the Irish bishops before the Pope. The delegates chosen were Archbishop Murray, Dr Murphy of Cork, and Dr Michael Blake the moving spirit of the priests who had met in Bridge Street (DEP 26 Aug 1815).

            An Aggregate Meeting was held in Clarendon St. chapel on 29 August 1815 with Sir Thomas Esmonde in the chair. O’Connell made a typically abusive speech, saying Cardinal Consalvi ‘was not a clergyman though he was a cardinal’. He ‘either betrayed or sold our Church to the British minister at Vienna’. He denounced the English bishops especially Poynter ‘known to some by the name of Spaniel’. [Though as far as breeds of dogs go a pointer was not exactly a spaniel, but the dictionary gives a second meaning for spaniel as a ‘fawning, servile person’ (Webster’s Dictionary.)] ‘Quarantotti, the odious, the stupid Quarantotti, and Cardinal Litta and the Pope himself are foreigners’. He denounced Milner for changing his opinions again, and said he appears to have arrived at his dotage (SNL 30 Aug 1815, Ward II. These speeches were usually taken down in shorthand at the meetings and were quoted in a compressed form in the following day’s papers. We can be sure they are reasonably accurate, especially when given by Saunders.) As these papers could easily be sent to Rome, where Milner had already prejudiced the case of the anti-vetoists, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that O’Connell knew he was defeated. As in the case against Saurin he could then throw caution to the winds.

It was proposed to send delegates from the lay Catholics as well, but nobody was free or willing to go. O’Connell’s inability to go seems unconnected with the hostile message he received from Peel, for the message from Peel’s second was written on 1 September. (Both men set out for Boulogne, but O’Connell was arrested in London.) Rather it would seem he did not want to go. Or did he see that Fr Hayes was likely to be a disaster, and one with which he personally would be better off if not associated with him? Two delegates were appointed, and they later said they could not go. A rather uncouth friar called Fr Richard Hayes OFM who spoke Italian fluently agreed to go. Hayes apparently regarded O’Connell’s manner of speaking in a Catholic assembly as the pinnacle of diplomacy. He was ignorant of elementary standards of ecclesiastical behaviour. For example, a friar could and did wear the ecclesiastical dress of diocesan priest in Ireland, this was strictly forbidden in Rome where all friars wore the habit of their order. The ecclesiastical dress in Ireland was more or less cut like a layman’s but simple in form and dark in colour. The Dublin Evening Post later reported that Fr Hayes had been three times ‘interdicted’ by ecclesiastical authority for preaching political sermons, twice before he went to Rome, and once after he returned. By interdiction seems to have been meant the refusal of particular bishops to allow him to preach in their diocese. His own superior in that case would have to move him to a different diocese. A more serious charge was made against him. He was the first Catholic priest to attack the Protestant clergy. Even in the most furious times of the Catholic Committee no attacks were made on the Protestant clergy (DEP 12 Dec 1822). His provincial superior was willing to allow him to go to Rome, and this could be managed by permitting him to go to a Franciscan convent in Rome.

[September 1815] On 5 September 1815 a meeting of the ‘Catholic Voluntary Association’ was held at Fitzpatrick’s, Capel Street. O’Connell reported that Fr Hayes was in town and was ready to depart. A subscription was opened to defray expenses, and a committee appointed to draw up a Remonstrance. The following were on the committee, O’Connell, Nicholas Mahon, MacDonnell (presumably Eneas), Mr Evans and Mr Lyons. This, the First Remonstrance, the Pope ignored because of its disrespectful language towards the Holy See. In the Remonstrance it was alleged that proselytism was in full force, and every inducement was being held out to Catholics to persuade them to conform to the Protestant Church. The Government was involved in all this, and it was to this Government it was proposed to give powers over the appointment of bishops. Actual attempts at proselytism, which were to occur a decade later scarcely existed at this time. Schools like those of the Incorporated Society set up three-quarters of a century earlier to bring up the children of Catholics as Protestants were moribund. If this power over the appointment of bishops were conceded the laity would revolt and the connection with Rome might be broken off. It concluded ‘… we cannot admit any right on the part of the Holy See to investigate our political principles or to direct our political conduct’ (DEP 7 Oct 1815). O’Connell then set off immediately for Boulogne, and then he disappeared, as was his wont home to Kerry for a couple of months. (Scare stories about proselytism became an essential part of the rhetoric of Catholic nationalists ever after.)

There were various things about this Remonstrance which worried the Dublin Evening Post which otherwise supported the 'Catholic Voluntary Association'. It was never shown to or approved by an Aggregate Meeting. In fact at the meeting that approved it, there were only seven people present, Nicholas Mahon, Edward Hay, Cornelius McLoughlin, Luke Plunket, Richard O’Brien, Eneas MacDonnell and Bernard Coile. Eneas MacDonnell who was later to devote much effort to combating proselytism had composed it. The time of year explains the small attendance. The Post wanted to know why the two delegates appointed were not now going, and why their secretary was made into a delegate. Being a Protestant paper it objected to calling all Protestants proselytisers. Why was no Aggregate Meeting called, and why was the Remonstrance published in the newspapers after Hayes had left Ireland, but before the Pope to whom it was addressed had seen it? We can only assume that those left in Dublin hastened to get Fr Hayes on his way to Rome as soon as possible. The haste would be necessary if there were suspicions that the bishops were prepared to accept the veto (DEP 20 April 1815). Hayes and the bishops left for Rome separately and arrived in October within a few days of each other.

A county meeting of the Catholics of Roscommon was held on 2 September 1815 with Mr Owen O’Conor in the chair. Mr Owen O’Conor of Mount Druid (brother of Rev. Charles O’Conor of Stowe ‘Columbanus’; both were grandsons of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare d. 1791) made a long speech saying why he had come to favour conceding the Securities. He began by congratulating the chairman for holding the meeting in the session house and not the chapel, for houses of worship were totally unsuited to political meetings,

‘Chapels, Sir, are of all places the most unfit for Catholic meetings. You have heard of the scandalous and tumultuous meetings in the chapels of Ballyshannon and Derry; you have witnessed the hisses and groans and thunders of applause that reverberated from the very altar of Clarendon Street chapel. Such theatrical expressions of public sentiment are most indecent in the House of God…I am astonished that our clergy suffer such abominations in the very sanctuary of the temple.

Did I wish to gain popular applause I would address you in a very different style from what I shall do. I would rail against the executive government, I would abuse every man in power who opposes Emancipation; I would abuse every Member of Parliament who would differ from me on the subject of Securities; I would abuse every man of my own communion who would attempt to stem the tide of popular frenzy; I would perhaps grapple with some illustrious name; I might even presume to fling an impotent javelin at the invulnerable character of the Right Honourable Henry Grattan; I might attempt to exhibit the powers of his mind decayed, the bloom of his imagination withered, the fire of his patriotism extinguished, and his great soul drooping under age or infirmities, or sycophancy to the Court’ (DEP 12 September 1815).

This pen picture gives us an excellent idea how popular public meetings were carried on, and the type of rhetoric of popular speakers. The reasons he gave for accepting the veto were that in places like Canada, Brandenburg, and Russian lands where there was an effective veto the Catholic religion had not suffered. Secondly, the bishops had been denounced for selling out to the Government when they accepted public money for Maynooth, and the Lord Chancellor was one of the trustees, but no evil had resulted. Thirdly, at present, the Government actually exercises a veto, and no bishop is appointed by Rome whom the Government disapproves of. He refers to the disputes actually occurring in various dioceses over elections as a reason why Domestic Nomination is objectionable. Finally it was not within the competence of laymen to decide the issue (ibid.). (Coxe Hippisley claimed that the King of Prussia (Brandenburg) had acquired rights of direct nomination in three Polish Catholic dioceses as a result of the partition of Poland. In fact, Pope Benedict XIV had in his letter to the bishop of Breslau in 1748 explicitly excluded such right of nomination (Ward II). This did not prevent the King of Prussia pushing forward his own choices. Breslau was in Silesia, and was ceded by the Catholic Hapsburgs to the Protestant Frederick the Great in 1742.

[November 1815]  Dr Blake wrote saying there was great prejudice against the Irish bishops in Rome, but they had many interviews with cardinals, and prejudice had lessened. He noted the arrival of Fr Hayes. Hayes had his first audience with the Pope on 9 November 1815, and wrote his first letter on 11th and this was published in the Dublin Evening Post on 12 December 1815. According to him the letter from Genoa was not binding on Catholics but merely allowed them to submit to the Government the names of those chosen in the ordinary way, so that one or more if necessary might be rejected, subject to the condition that sufficient names should still be on the list for the Pope to choose from the Pope, according to Hayes, expressed surprise and some displeasure that the letter from Genoa had not been published, ‘for the reading of it would have considerably allayed the pious alarm and ferment of the people’. Hayes expressed the greatest confidence that the veto would be suppressed. On 18 November Hayes wrote again enclosing a copy of the Genoese letter. The Pope instructed Hayes and the bishops to give all their papers to Cardinal Consalvi. Hayes rather expected that the matter would be referred to the Congregation for Ecclesiastical Affairs, and made a point of meeting all eight cardinals that composed that Congregation. This was wishful thinking for there was no reason for the Pope to remove the matter from Propaganda. The Dublin Evening Post did not share his confidence, and said that an Emancipation Bill would be followed by a veto Bill. That was the obvious meaning of the Genoese Letter. The Post considered that if the Catholics considered the Pope incompetent to make a decision on the point, they should not have sent a delegate. Nor indeed did the episcopal delegation share his confidence, for they felt that the matter had been concluded before they had left Dublin (DEP 28 Dec 1815).

[December 1815] At a meeting of the Catholic Association Jack Lawless again raised the question of paying the debts of the Catholic Committee and the Catholic Board, referring in particular to Mr Magee and the Kilkenny Resolutions. O’Connell did not think the money could be raised for he said the seceders would not pay (DEP 7 Dec 1815).

[January 1816] In Rome Cardinal Consalvi said nothing further would be done until an Emancipation Bill was actually introduced and passed. Dr Murray dealt with the rest of the business which brought him to Rome including the foundation of his Order of Sisters, the Irish Sisters of Charity, and of a proposed new foundation of teaching sisters, and also of the affairs of the newly-formed Irish Christian Brothers. Dr Murray and Dr Murphy then left Rome on 5 January 1816, while Dr Blake remained some time to oversee the painting of some religious pictures he had commissioned for his church. It goes without saying that the Irish bishops expressed their loyalty to the Pope, and the determination of all the Irish bishops and priests to accept whatever decision the Pope arrived at after he was made fully conversant with the facts. There never was the slightest intention of schism on their part. (Murray, later in life had twice to strongly oppose decisions in Rome based on misrepresentations of the intentions of the British Government, with regard to national education and the Queen’s Colleges. He was prepared in each case to resist decisions based on misrepresentations as far as he possibly could. But of his loyalty to the Holy See there was not the slightest shadow of doubt.)

The self-deluding Hayes was convinced that the battle was nearly won and stayed on in Rome. (Buschkuel, relying on Brenan who accepted Hayes’ assertions as facts, said that Cardinal Litta was opposed to the veto, and that Cardinal Consalvi and Cardinal Fontana had forced it on the Pope. There is of course no evidence that this was the case. Litta may very well have been opposed to the veto and said so to Hayes, but this need not mean more than every cardinal was opposed to every veto to every monarch in principle, but the Pope had to live in the real world (Buschkuel; Brenan was himself a tendentious Catholic nationalist historian whose conclusions should be treated with some caution.) Hayes was determined to force a decision, and one in his own favour. He tried to convince the Pope that Consalvi who was acting as an agent of the British Government was duping him. Hayes claimed that he had got Consalvi to admit that he had misled the Pope with regard to the strength of the opposition in Ireland to the veto. This is very unlikely, for Castlereagh who was fully aware of the situation briefed Consalvi. Whether either of them gave much weight to popular clamours is another matter. Popular dissent, rioting, and the breaking of windows of unpopular ministers was part and parcel of British democracy as it was then understood. But the landed gentry who controlled parliament paid little attention to such demonstrations.

Eneas MacDonnell’s short-lived Dublin Chronicle seems to have been the preferred organ of the Catholic Voluntary Association at this time. MacDonnell was a fanatical anti-vetoist. In a letter to it, Hayes denounced

…the irregular, uncanonical, perfidious, and shameful way in which a shameless Secretary of State [Consalvi] has assumed to himself and managed the important affairs of religion (Ward II).

The Dublin Chronicle published what was purported to be an account of the meeting between Hayes and Consalvi.

Consalvi: The Pope will do as he pleases.

Hayes: That may be, but it is my duty to point out the consequences.

Consalvi: God will take care of the consequences.

Hayes: True, but it is my duty to point them out. Ireland will not submit, nor is she bound to submit.

Consalvi: So much the worse for Ireland.

Hayes: So much the worse for Rome (Dublin Chronicle 8 March 1816).

Was this exchange ever reported to Milner?

            [February 1816] Parliament re-convened on 1 February 1816. Also on 1 February 1816 the Pope replied to the Irish bishops. He expressed his pain that his decision had not met with their approval. He had decided what could and what could not be conceded and had requested Cardinal Litta to inform Archbishop Troy (i.e. regarding the Genoese Letter.) He had not conceded direct nomination or presentation or postulation in accordance with the principles laid down by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XIV, but only a limited exclusion. In doing this he had followed the practice of his illustrious predecessors of never promoting to bishoprics those who might be unpleasing to the civil powers. But also he followed the principle laid down by St Leo the Great [440-461] that none should be promoted to bishoprics without the consent and postulation of the flock. But this principle could be extended in changed circumstances to Princes, even those not in communion with us. They fear that the most worthy clergyman might be excluded by the Government, and another promoted who was less worthy but more subservient to the views of the Government. and that this could result in the destruction of the Catholic religion. But the list submitted to the Government will include only worthy men.

He regarded their fears for religion as groundless, for this was the government which had several times passed acts of emancipation, and which was the most ardent advocate of the restoration of the Pope to the Pontifical chair. The king and his son often protected Catholics. If there are any acts still directed against Catholics they are those of individuals and will soon cease altogether.

It was not possible to refuse the small degree of interference asked for by the Government. A totally free Church would be ideal. But in the British Isles it had long been the custom to appoint bishops at the supplication of the king as was recorded in a consistory of Pope Julius III in 1554. How long would the British Government tolerate the exclusion from some participation in the choice of bishops, when lesser Catholic princes and even non-Catholics had such a right? It would regard itself as unfairly treated. He personally did not see any need for securities, but it was unquestionable that others did. And if the Pope refused all securities what would the enemies of religion think? Many in Ireland (Catholici ex Anglia fere universi et ex Hibernia saltem multi) saw matters in this way, and almost all the Catholics in England (SNL 6 July 1818, DEP 4 July 1818).

This remarkable calm exposition should have been sufficient to convince all except those who were determined to cling to their anti-British and anti-Protestant prejudices, but in Ireland there were very many of these, and their numbers were to grow as the century advanced. Again it is astonishing that the letter was not published for nearly two and a half years. It may have been the case that the Irish bishops were always reluctant to discuss religious matters with laymen. But our suspicion remains that they were still hoping to get the exclusive, or at least principal, right to nominate bishops themselves.

Two rival groups were meeting in Dublin to prepare petitions to Parliament. Those who preferred references to Securities to be omitted from the petition met at the house of Lord Trimleston. The petition contained the words,

‘…your petitioners felt themselves in duty bound to state their readiness to submit and conform to any regulations not incompatible with the principles of their religion’

This petition was supported by Fingall and the other lords, Sir Edward Bellew, Richard Lalor Sheil, Randall MacDonnell, Christopher Dillon Bellew, Stephen Woulfe, Thomas Wyse and his son (later Sir Thomas Wyse). It was about this time that O’Connell made his famous jest about the Woulfe in sheep’s clothing. At a meeting in Limerick, in a speech praised by the Freeman’s Journal, Woulfe contended that the various pronouncements of the Irish bishops merely reflected their reaction to the views of the laity. ‘The conclusion we must draw from their conduct is that they see nothing objectionable in the measure, and that if the people do not resist it, they would not oppose it’ (FJ 28 March 1816). There seems to have been a minority of bishops and priests who were strongly opposed to any powers granted to the crown, but that Woulfe was right in believing that the majority of the bishops and clergy had no difficulty in accepting the Genoese Letter, and that the issue was merely a political one of concern only to laymen. This petition was entrusted to Henry Grattan and Donoughmore. The latter made it perfectly clear that he did not personally favour Securities. Trimleston’s group also sent an address to the Regent. Trimleston was now acting as head of the Irish Catholic lords, as Fingall was either absent or inactive. (This was John Thomas Barnewall, 15th Baron Trimleston who had succeeded his father the 14th baron in 1813

[March 1816] Several meetings of the Catholic Voluntary Association were held, but seem to have been poorly attended. An Aggregate Meeting was held on 5 March in Clarendon Street chapel. O’Connell read out his address to the Prince Regent, which consisted largely of a list of the offices from which Catholics were still excluded. In March Edward Hay sent out a circular asking for money to pay the debts incurred by the Catholics. One of these debts was owed to Hugh Fitzpatrick, the bookseller, and amounted to over £552. Donoughmore wrote to Hay on 15 March 1816 noting that the bishops were blocking ‘Domestic Nomination’. He clearly understood the term to mean nomination by the clergy of the diocese He also wrote to Troy on the matter (Dublin Chronicle 27 March 1816), 27 March 1816) The Freeman’s Journal reported that Lord Killeen had been chosen as foreman of the County Meath Grand Jury. This was only a courtesy to the young man now commencing his public duties, but it indicates the esteem in which Fingall’s family was held in the county. But it is worth bearing in mind that if the later Catholic Association had been asked about putting up a candidate for Parliament, Lord Killeen was the obvious choice. There never was at any time a need for O’Connell to gamble on the livelihoods of the Forty-Shilling Freeholders. On 26 March Drs Murray and Murphy reported about their journey to Rome to the Primate, Archbishop O’Reilly, who on 30 March sent out invitations to the other bishops to meet him.

At the assize in Galway, Rev Cornelius O’Mullane, then serving as a curate in Dublin, brought the action for which he received damages of six pence. At the same sessions Purcell O’Gorman sued James Magee of the Dublin Evening Post for calling him a ‘dishonourable blockhead’ after losing £1,000 in the courts. For the defence, Col. Martin MP for Galway, said that O’Gorman’s reputation ‘was that of a foolish and injudicious politician, and a person who injured the cause he professed to support’. O’Gorman was awarded £150 in damages and six pence in costs (FJ 4 April 1816)

[April 1816] On 12 April 1816, on Good Friday, Archbishop Murray preached a sermon, and then sent a copy of it to the newspapers lest there be any doubt about what he had said,

‘To this bound and suffering victim I would now implore the attention of those misguided Catholics who seem willing to impose new and disgraceful bonds, not indeed on His Sacred Person, but on his mystical body that is the Church, which was even more dear to Him than his personal liberty, more dear to Him than even his life…

I know that our mistaken brethren would not consent to yield up any point  which they deem essential, and they look not beyond what they consider safe and honourable conciliation.

But unhappily it is now too well known that the conciliation which is expected is such as would imply the degradation and enslavement of the sacred ministry…in the name of God let no Catholic press forward to share in the inglorious work - let no one among us be found to say of His Church as the treacherous disciple said of his divine founder: What will you give to me and I will deliver him unto you?’ (Dublin Chronicle 15 April 1816).

Lord Trimleston wrote to Troy to ask if Catholics in his grace’s archdiocese could sign a petition which conceded the veto. Troy replied,

Inasmuch as the petitioners, in stating their readiness to submit and conform to arrangements, and confine such readiness to arrangements not incompatible with the principles of their religion…the arrangements to which they state themselves ready to submit are to have the assent of His Holiness…I do not conceive that the petition adopted at Lord Trimleston’s last February contains matter which renders it such as cannot with safe conscience be signed by a Roman Catholic (Dublin Chronicle 22 April 1816).

In other words, so long as the Pope consented, and they confined their consent to the limits set by the Pope, they were free to act. One feels that Troy and his coadjutor did not see eye to eye on the matter, but Troy was obviously correct. The editor of the paper considered Troy was negotiating with Rome.

            On 26 April 1816 fourteen Irish bishops met in Kilkenny at the request of the Primate, Archbishop O’Reilly of Armagh, to consider what their response should be Pope’s letter of 1 February which had now arrived in Ireland. They agreed that petitions from the Irish bishops and clergy should be sent to both Houses of Parliament most earnestly requesting them to resist any attempt on the part of the crown to interfere in the appointment of Catholic bishops. They would agree if necessary to Domestic Nomination.

‘That this Domestic Nomination (that is election to the vacant sees by a certain number of Irish clergy already bound by a solemn oath of allegiance to His Majesty, and after swearing anew that they would not elect any individual whose loyalty they were not convinced appears to us as a test of loyal principles and peaceable conduct (Dublin Journal 1 May 1816).

         This left open the question of who had a right to choose the bishops. It was also an attempt, of dubious value when there was a Tory Government in power to appeal to Parliament against encroachments of royal power. The petitions were to be entrusted to Lord Donoughmore and Sir Henry Parnell. The problem with this solution was that many Protestants regarded it as insufficient, and furthermore their refusal to submit to the Pope and the crown made their conduct more suspicious. A question was who should comprise the body of loyal clergy, whether it was to be composed of chapters only, or parish priests only, or all the clergy of the diocese, and whether the bishops of the province had any role (Dublin Chronicle 1 November 1816). To confuse matters still further in the minds of the laity, any bishop could request Rome to grant him a co-adjutor with the right of succession. If Rome granted the request it over-ruled the rights of the local clergy (DEP 19 September 1816 regarding the postulation of the bishop of Clogher for a co-adjutor.) Henry Grattan was out of favour. The bishops also resolved to send a further Remonstrance to Rome but no further episcopal envoys.

            [May 1816] In May Grattan presented Trimleston’s petition, and then suddenly, a week later (21 May), and assisted by Castlereagh introduced a motion on the petition. Castlereagh noted that Hanover no longer excluded Catholics. It was defeated by 31 votes. Donoughmore was extremely critical of the way the petitions and motions were organised in the Commons, without plan or co-ordination or preparation (FJ 11 June 1816). The Freeman’s Journal expressed surprise at this action, as no pressure had been placed on him to act. Sir Henry Parnell seconded Grattan’s motion. On 30 May Parnell presented the petition of the Irish bishops. Leslie Foster said that if they had attempted to use their episcopal titles the petition would have been rejected. It was signed by 23 bishops and 1052 priests, a surprising figure as they had less than a month in which to sign. Sir John Coxe Hippisley proposed and obtained a parliamentary committee to examine what powers other monarchs had over the appointment of Catholic bishops. The committee included Castlereagh, Canning now returned to Parliament, Grattan, Peel, Parnell, etc. The committee reported early in July, but nothing further was done. It concluded that there were restrictions placed on the selection of bishops in every country. Poynter and the other vicars apostolic asked the Catholic historian Dr John Lingard to write a reply. He showed that in every case where it was claimed there was a ‘civil establishment of the clergy which alone could justify control’ (Ward II). Some of Castlereagh’s and Hippisley’s conclusions were a bit forced. In Canada, there was no concordat, and the veto was purely de facto and not de jure. The same was true in the Polish dioceses in Prussia. (In 1816 Canning accepted a position on the Board of Control of India and returned to the ministry. After taking his son to Portugal and acting as ambassador to Lisbon for a year, he lived in the south of France, and returned in 1816.)

            The Catholic Voluntary Association wrote to Lord Liverpool asking him to present their address to the Prince Regent. Liverpool courteously replied that the proper channel was through the Home Secretary, but to save them further trouble and expense he would himself forward the address to the Home Secretary. This would appear to be the last meeting of the Catholic Voluntary Association. Meetings continued to be held at Lord Trimleston’s. Edward Hay continued as Catholic Secretary, but it is not apparent by whom he was paid or if he was paid. Though a gentleman he had no independent means.

            [June 1816] Sir Henry Parnell proceeded with his own plan. On 6 June he presented some other petitions, and gave notice of a request to consider them at a future date. He then outlined the points he wished to see discussed. Peel objected that he was speaking on a subject without a formal motion, but the Speaker ruled that while Parnell could not speak on a Bill he could propose abstract motions. One resolution dealt with the supposed enforced attendance of Catholic soldiers at Protestant worship. Another concerned the admission of Catholics to offices from which they were now excluded. Another to equalise the rights of Catholics and Protestants regarding the disposal of property. Another was to allow Catholic bequests for chapels and charities. These points apparently were mentioned in various petitions that Parnell had presented, and he felt he should make some effort on their behalf. Castlereagh objected to the manner in which they were introduced, and said it was contrary to the advice Parnell had received from his friends (FJ 11 June 1816). He advised their withdrawal, and Parnell agreed. The resolutions are of interest for they show an alternative way the Catholics could have proceeded. Instead of constantly demanding admission to Parliament, they could have tried to gain smaller points successively. The Freeman’s Journal noted the abuse that was heaped on Donoughmore by the very faction to whom the ruin of the Catholic cause was now being attributed by all rational minds. His late arrival in London was caused by illness  and he arrived in London in the midst of the disastrous happenings. He had made more enemies for supporting the Catholics than even the first magistrate in the country (FJ 14 June 1816).

            In the Lords Donoughmore carefully prepared the ground, as he explained in a letter to Edward Hay (7 June), where he severely criticised the mismanagement in the Commons. He had consulted with Lords Grey, Grenville, Lansdowne, and Holland, and tried to get the assistance of the Marquis Wellesley, and the Duke of Sussex. The public support of the Duke of Sussex, Augustus Frederick of Brunswick, the Regent’s younger brother was extremely useful. The members of the royal family had no personal objections to Catholics, and they freely accepted Mrs Fitzherbert. But the public endorsement of Catholic claims by a royal duke was different. Whereas Parnell’s motion was made against all advice, and without adequate preparation, so that few member even turned up to listen. Donoughmore presented the Catholic petitions on 10 June, and they were ordered to be laid on the table. On 20 June he brought forward a motion that the House should consider the Catholic question early in the next session. Surprisingly he got the support of a majority of the peers present, but proxy votes of absent peers (allowed in the Lords) turned the scales. His motion was defeated by only four votes. The Freeman’s Journal noted that Donoughmore’s judicious exertions put the Catholic cause back on its legs again. Thus ended Sir Henry Parnell’s disastrous attempts to act independently in Parliament at the behest of the Catholic Voluntary Association. The naïve belief  that if your cause is manifestly just and your opponents are equally manifestly unjust you only have to state your case and get the verdict in your favour was disproved. Independent observers might take the opposite view, or conclude that there was merit and de-merit on both sides, or that the injury was real but the remedy excessive. Parliament then rose for the summer recess.

            [July 1816] In July the Pope promoted Mgr. Quarantotti to the rank of Cardinal, and appointed him a member of the Congregations of Propaganda, Council, Rites, and Discipline. In September the first nuns since the Reformation appeared on the streets of Dublin wearing the religious habit. They belonged to the new Order of Irish Sisters of Charity founded by Mary Aikenhead and Archbishop Murray. Some enclosed convents of women had survived in Ireland since the Reformation, and at the end of the eighteenth century the Ursulines, a teaching Order, had been introduced, but they remained within the cloister. Communities of friars also survived, but they wore the dress of secular priests, not the habits of their Orders. In September the British Government did another unasked favour to the Pope by rescuing 173 subjects of the Papal States from the corsairs of Algiers.

            Though Castlereagh and Consalvi had decided that it was better, giving consideration to Protestant feelings at the time, not to establish formal diplomatic relations between the two states, Castlereagh opened two channels of communication. There was nothing particularly new about this, as informal links had been established even before the death of the Young Pretender in 1788. Direct communication had ceased during the Pope’s imprisonment, so in 1816 it was decided to renew the connection. There were to be two channels of communication, one from the Regent through his connection with Hanover, and the other through the Foreign Office by means of the British minister to the Grand Duchy of Florence. Though the King of England could not communicate with the Papal States, there was no popular objection in Hanover for him as King of Hanover so to communicate. British ministers had no direct influence over the actions of the ministers of Hanover, but could always advise the Prince Regent on matters that had to be conveyed directly to Rome. The ministers in the cabinet had direct control over the minister to the Grand Duchy whose territory adjoined the Papal States. In this way Castlereagh and Consalvi maintained their friendly contacts. The British Government was always able to contradict any mis-statements made by Fr. Hayes. There was nothing sinister about this. Castlereagh personally favoured Emancipation, but could not claim it as British Government policy. So the activity of the two representatives largely consisted in clarifying the situation.

            There was another outbreak of agrarian terrorism. At this time there occurred the murders of the family of Edward Lynch, described by William Carleton in ‘Wildgoose Lodge’. These murders took place in Co. Louth, but what made them notorious was that the conspirators used to meet at night in the Catholic chapel. The parish priest, an old deaf man was entirely unaware of the fact that his clerk used to open the door of the chapel. However, many Protestants felt that their fears of the Catholic religion were confirmed. The Lord Lieutenant proclaimed four baronies in co. Louth the following February under the Insurrection Act.

            [November, December 1816] The correspondence between Hayes and Litta was published in the Dublin Evening Post in November. Litta refused to make any further statement and referred Hayes back to the Genoese Letter. The Pope told Fr Hayes to leave matters in the hands of Cardinal Consalvi, but he was unable to take the hint. He told the Pope exactly what he thought of his ‘political minister’, and protested against the interference of that minister, and ‘respectfully declined’ to take any of his papers to him (DEP 16 Dec. 1816). Cardinal Litta asked that the meaning of ‘Domestic Nomination’ be explained to him. Who first coined the phrase is unclear. The general idea behind it is obvious enough: that clergymen of sworn loyalty to the crown would undertake to choose for a vacant diocese a clergyman of good life and known loyalty. But with regard to the details, almost everyone seemed to have his own opinion.

            An Aggregate Meeting was held in Clarendon Street chapel on the 17 December 1816 and it approved of Hayes’ decision to stay on in Rome. It also agreed a new petition.

[January 1817] Parliament re-assembled on 28 January 1817. Sessions of Parliament lasted five to six months in the first half of the year, though there were no fixed dates for starting or finishing. It could start as early as the first week in December and end as late as the first week in August if there were any special reasons. Gentlemen dispersed to their estates in the summer. The shooting season for game birds commenced about the second week in August. Some travelled to the Continent. Towards the end of the year, the gentlemen and their ladies returned to London, and the London season characterised by the opening of Parliament balls, dinners, and visits to the theatre commenced. As usual there was no mention of laws for Catholics in the Prince Regent’s speech at the opening of Parliament, as this was not Government policy.

Hayes had some difficulty putting together a scheme for Domestic Nomination, but after emendations by Cardinal Litta the following proposed scheme was accepted by the cardinal for further examination by the papal experts.

1 That the parish priests including the members of the chapters where they existed should elect three candidates.

2 That the bishops of the province should add their opinions regarding the suitability of each.

3 The Pope would choose from this three.

4 With regard to co-adjutors, the bishop should present the name of the proposed to the parish priests and canons of the diocese for their assent or dissent by simple majority.

5 The bishops of the province should transmit their opinion of him (SNL 17 December 1817).

 [February 1817] Fr Hayes wrote from Rome on 1 February 1817 saying that the British Government had five agents working against him. These he identified as Dr MacPherson, a Dominican called Fr. Taylor, Mr Dennis the British consul, and two Irishmen of the vetoist party called Ball and Wyse. Nicholas Ball and Thomas Wyse had been travelling on the Continent. Nicholas Ball spent two winters in Rome and then returned to his work as a barrister in Dublin. His sister Frances Ball (Mother Theresa Ball) entered the Bar Convent in York in 1815, and in 1821 founded a convent of the same Order in Ireland. During her lifetime she founded thirty-seven convents in various parts of the world. Wyse had commenced studies for the bar in London, but abandoned a legal career for travel on the Continent. He went to Paris, Florence, Rome, Athens, Constantinople, Egypt, Palestine, the Greek islands, and Sicily. It was to be ten years before he returned to Ireland. Before setting out on their travels they had asked Lord Castlereagh and Coxe Hippisley for introductions to good families on whom they might call. This in Hayes’ view displayed their cloven hooves. They did of course put the point of view of Lord Trimleston’s party (DEP 4 March 1817). The Dominican, Fr Taylor had already publicly denied speaking on behalf of the Catholics; he had merely introduced distinguished English visitors to the Pope (Diario di Roma 25 July 1816).

 In February O’Connell made an attempt to get some kind of co-operation with Lord Trimleston’s party. These were meeting in the Dublin house of Sir Edward Bellew, 50 Eccles Street on 4 February to ask Grattan to move on the petition of the previous year, which he had not yet done. O’Connell, Nicholas Mahon, Fr L’Estrange and some others gatecrashed the meeting. Lord Southwell took the chair, with Counsellor Bellew as secretary. Southwell ruled that those who had not signed Lord Trimleston’s petition could not vote. O’Connell proposed a committee to try to patch up the differences between them, saying that he was now dropping the word ‘unqualified’ from before ‘Emancipation’. Nicholas Mahon urged them not to sell their religion for base lucre, which was hardly a promising start, for there was no indication that anyone was selling their religion for anything. Several people, including the Bellews, were against holding a joint meeting, but it was agreed to hold one. John Howley said that the split had occurred ‘because of the violence and impolitic conduct of the gentlemen who acted on the popular side’. As they now showed a disposition to return to moderation and good conduct he favoured meeting them.

A ‘conciliation meeting’ did take place in Townsend Street chapel on 14 February 1817, with Sir Thomas Esmonde in the chair, and Edward Hay as secretary. However Nicholas Mahon and Barney Coile persisted in referring to pensioners (i.e. of the Government) and filthy lucre. Nor was the matter helped when Esmonde issued a circular saying that the only way to unity was for the '‘seceders’ to abandon their position. It was decided to hold an Aggregate Meeting, but this was postponed first to allow country gentlemen to attend, and again because O’Connell was unclear if the Suspension of Habeas Corpus Act (1817) about to be introduced would apply to Ireland. On 24 February Lord Sidmouth introduced the Suspension of Habeas Corpus Bill in the Lords, making it plain that it did not apply to Ireland. Castlereagh introduced the Bill in the Commons.

Sir Henry Parnell wrote to Denys Scully saying he could do nothing for them for Castlereagh and the Whigs would attend only to Grattan, and it was best to leave the motion on Emancipation to him. He would try to get their affairs discussed in other ways with various minor resolutions. He had also enlisted the help of Henry Brougham, now a rising star among the Whigs. But he warned the Irish Catholics not to bring their own disputes before Parliament

After holding several meetings the conciliating committee had to admit failure. Grattan too declined to propose a motion on the terms the Ultras were insisting on. At this time the very bill which had caused the fall of the Talents Ministry was passed without fuss. It was passed to rectify the position of a Catholic naval officer, Captain Edward Whyte of Loughbrickland, co Down, who had been promoted during the War. The Irish bishops chose Archbishop Murray and Archbishop Everard to go to London in case Members of Parliament might require their assistance.

[March 1817] At a meeting of the Conciliating Committee on 3 March, the letter of Hayes of the 1 February was read out at O’Connell’s insistence, though others considered it a private letter. It was published in the papers the following day, and Hayes’ allegations caused a great stir in the city. At the next meeting on 4 March it was decided not to proceed with the Aggregate Meeting but O’Connell, arriving late, got the decision reversed. He claimed that it was essential to rebut the statement by Grattan that civil liberty with the veto was preferable to perpetual exclusion. The Aggregate Meeting took place in Clarendon Street chapel on 6 March, with Sir Thomas Esmonde in the chair, but many of the Conciliating Committee were absent. The Resolutions had been drawn up by O’Connell and were entirely unconciliatory. Stephen Woulfe said that he had formerly supported Lord Trimleston, but as they were all now agreed that Domestic Nomination was to be the security he felt he could join them. It was also proposed by O’Connell that Edward Hay be retained as Catholic Secretary. Richard Lalor Sheil also continued to work with O’Connell.

But in a letter later in the month Sir Henry Parnell said he considered Domestic Nomination a sufficient security, if the Pope agreed to return to the ancient practice of merely confirming the election of a bishop and not appointing personally. It would seem from some stray references a decade later that some of the Irish bishops were thinking of a solution on these lines, but at that moment were more concerned about maintaining the influence of the bishops over elections. In a letter from Rome dated 8 March it was reported that Cardinal Litta said that the Irish bishops were opposed to Domestic Nomination (DEP 10 April 1817; seemingly from Dr Dromgoole 11 July 1817, 7 February 1822).

As usual it is extremely difficult to determine what exactly O’Connell was trying to achieve. One cannot ever say about him that he did not understand the circumstances and implications. He knew as well as Charles Butler that the practical effects of the veto would be virtually nil. He knew perfectly well that lay members of the Board of Maynooth College left the work to the bishops, and that the Protestant members only attended if it was absolutely essential. He knew that any board or commission to exercise the veto would consist of a few of the Catholic lords, some Catholic bishops, and a few Protestant gentlemen who after the first few meetings would not attend, and the real work would be done by the episcopal members who would know what they were talking about. But all his life he was skilled a conjuring up imaginary dangers when it suited his purpose. But what was his purpose at this time? He does not seem at this stage in his life to have envisaged a career in Parliament for himself. He had an intense dislike of Peel, and the feeling was mutual, but Peel was opposing any concession. The bitterly anti-Protestant feelings of the Catholic ultras which had surrounded him for childhood no doubt influenced him to some extent. It is hard to see him led by his emotions regarding a rather arcane point in canon law. On the other hand, if he felt he had been personally insulted or disregarded he was very much led by his emotions. There could be some grounds for pursuing the absolute independence of the Church up to a point. But after the Head of the Church, after mature examination, had declared that the dangers to the Church were virtually non-existent, what was the point in pursuing the opposition? This puzzled well-meaning and favourable Protestants like Castlereagh, Donoughmore, and Grattan. Sheil considered his unwillingness to conciliate Protestant opinion as simply fatuous. He was also convinced that O’Connell personally had no particular opinion regarding the veto, and considered it innocuous.

But if the attitude of O’Connell is puzzling, that of Archbishop Murray is even more puzzling. He was not an ignorant rustic friar like Hayes, who was filled with anti-Protestant bigotry and suspicion. Some years later Bishop Doyle commented on some priests in his diocese who had been promoted to Holy Orders after a short course of training to meet the sudden shortage of priests which had resulted from the closing of the continental colleges. Dr Doyle, himself a friar had also a very defective education, but made up for it by intense personal study. He was very anxious too to see that members of the mendicant orders did not go about the country begging for themselves, but should live in communities of at least three friars, and observe the discipline of their order (except in the matter of dress) so far as it was consistent with the laws of the country. (The various religious Orders in Ireland had not yet begun rooting out the various irregularities that had arisen in Penal Times. The return, first of the Jesuits in 1811 under Peter Kenney, and the return of the Cistercians in 1831 prompted a return to a stricter discipline).

But Archbishop Murray was not a priest of this kind. Though of rural farming stock, he was educated at the University of Salamanca, and was for many years the trusted chaplain and assistant of Dr Troy. Like his fellow bishops he had every opportunity of meeting educated Protestants, clerical and lay. Relations between the Churches were better then than they had been in the previous century, or would be in the future. He was usually a man of moderation and good judgement and perfectly capable of ignoring imaginary dangers and trifling transgressions. Yet on this occasion he seems to have backed the anti-vetoists to the hilt. Had the Irish bishops supported the English and Scottish vicars apostolic on this occasion and agreed to minor concessions, the growth of the sectarian spirit which disfigured Ireland for the following two centuries could have been inhibited. One senses a great opportunity missed at this time that was never to recur.

[April 1817] On 28 April 1817 Sir Henry Parnell presented the Irish Catholic petition. He said that the Pope was not obliged at present to attend to the recommendations of any names sent to him, but the Irish bishops offered to procure from the Pope a concordat that he would not appoint any persons other than those recommended by British subjects in Ireland. Also eminent persons in Rome assured them that the Pope would agree if this were put to him that they were likely to give satisfaction to the legislature. The Irish Catholics had sent two archbishops to answer any questions, and Cardinals Consalvi, Litta, and Pacca were ready to smooth any difficulties. He moved that the petition be printed (DEP 3 May 1817).

 [May 1817] On 8 May 1817 Donoughmore introduced the Irish petition in the Lords. He apologised for the delay in presenting the petition, but said this was because attempts had been made to unite the Irish Catholics. Though these had proved unsuccessful, they had at least produced one result. All the Irish Catholics were united behind Domestic Nomination. Grattan moved that the House institute an enquiry into the penal laws against Catholics on 9 May. Castlereagh agreed with Grattan that the oaths of allegiance and the examination of bulls were essential. Prussia was the only continental Protestant state where Catholic bishops were officially permitted, and however much Catholics might dislike a royal veto they could not object to it on the grounds of conscience. Furthermore, the Quarantotti Rescript was made in full communication with all the authorities of the Romish Church. He said that when Quarantotti had issued his rescript he was under the impression that the necessary legislation had already passed the British Parliament, and was intended to give effect to that legislation. He felt it necessary that the crown should have prior knowledge of the names being submitted to Rome, for the Government at times had a better knowledge of Irish priests than their own bishops. He agreed with regard to Domestic Nomination that election by the clergy would result in a mischievous spirit of democratic contest.

Peel disagreed with Castlereagh saying that a Bill clogged with securities would not bring tranquillity to Ireland, and also that as the letter of Fr Hayes from Rome had shown, Cardinal Litta did not know what was meant by Domestic Nomination. Peel’s speech was greeted with enthusiastic cheers, and the editor of the Dublin Evening Post commented on the excellence of his speech. Grattan’s motion was defeated by 245 votes to 221.

Peel in fact had crisply outlined the two major difficulties with Grattan’s approach. The first was that a bill with any securities would not bring tranquillity to Ireland, and the other was that Domestic Nomination was being put forward as the only security when even the Pope in Rome had no idea what it meant. It was obvious that the Irish Catholics should first agree among themselves what they meant by the term, and then work to get the Pope’s acceptance of it. But even that would not overcome Castlereagh’s difficulties. He did not elaborate on what he meant by the Government knowing priests better than their own bishops. But some may have used very indiscreet language in their private correspondence. Letters had to be brought to post offices prior to the departure of the mailcoaches, so it would be a matter of little difficulty to open them to see what they contained. There is no evidence at this time that any Irish bishop was proposing raising an army, but Fitzpatrick makes an obscure reference to Dr England’s plan to raise an army of 40,000 volunteers in 1828. In 1848 Dr Edward Maginn of Derry was similarly disposed to raise and lead an army. Both of these nebulous proposals seem to have been in the context of a supposed attempt by the Protestants, backed by the Government, to massacre the Catholics. Dr William Higgins of Ardagh at the height of the Repeal Movement in the 1840s rather saw the Irish Catholic priests gathering their flocks into their churches to await the supposed massacres. (The Irish Protestants, perhaps with greater reason, felt that they were likely to be massacred by the Catholics, and indeed in 1798 the only attempted cold-blooded massacre was of the Protestants in Wexford by the Catholic rebels. But events in Wexford at that time had only the loosest connection with the United Irishmen.) Whatever the rights or wrongs of such private armies, any Government is entitled to take such proposals into consideration. The Irish bishops had hitherto managed to exclude students who had adopted the principles of the United Irishmen from the ecclesiastical colleges, but the fact that some students had had to be excluded was itself significant.

In the Lords on 12 May Donoughmore gave notice of a motion, and said that Parliament could not be dictated to, and all questions should be left to the discretion of Parliament. On 16 May he moved that the House form a committee to consider the Catholic petition. He referred to the three securities, the veto, Domestic Nomination, and a third of which he had only recently heard, State Provision for the clergy. With regard to the veto he did not consider it right to put the Irish Church under the Irish Government, which in practice would mean not the Lord Lieutenant personally but second or third rate clerks. The motion was defeated by 142 votes to 90, Wellington in his first vote in the Lords voting against (DEP 22 May 1817).

According to Hayes’s unreliable evidence his scheme for Domestic Nomination was put to a general meeting of the Congregation of Propaganda on 19 May 1817 and was accepted by it, and Cardinal Quarantotti became an ardent supporter of the scheme. But Cardinal Fontana then wished to refer the matter further to the Congregation for Ecclesiastical Affairs, and Cardinal Litta agreed. Though Hayes was inclined to see plots and malign influences everywhere the referral seems to have been no more than a routine procedure. Ward however quotes from a letter of Cardinal Litta to Troy saying that the proposed scheme might promote jealousies, lessen the respect due to bishops, and give undue influence to laymen. No doubt Wyse and Ball (‘unfledged boys just called to the bar’ according to Dromgoole) among others had retailed the doubts they had heard in Ireland to the cardinals. The decision was not on a point of law or principle but envisaged consequences in practice. It is unclear to which exact Congregation the matter was referred, as those reporting do not seem to be consistent. A letter from Rome of 27 May (probably from Dromgoole) refers to the Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs i.e. that under the Secretary of State, Consalvi. He states that this Congregation had been created by the Pope to prepare the Concordat with Napoleon, and that it was completely under Consalvi’s direction (DEP 10 July 1817).

Rome knew that the manner of appointing bishops in Ireland and the United States and indeed other regions not under the control of European sovereigns would have to be rationalised. Chapters for the most part did not exist and it was undesirable to grant powers of recommendation to Protestant rulers even when direct nomination was excluded. They could continue to rely on recommendations from the bishops of the various provinces, and this seems to have been the preferred option at least of the Irish bishops. But the custom was growing up that, in the absence of a chapter, the senior priests of a diocese should have a choice, and in 1829 when Rome finally decided the matter, the principal role in choosing bishops was given to parish priests. And, as O’Connell later pointed out, the right of the Pope to go outside the list on the terna as it was called was safeguarded, though the Irish clergy had objected to this (Evidence) In January 1817 the lay parishioners in a particular parish claimed the right to nominate a new parish priest (DEP 30 Jan 1817).

 On 21 May 1817 Hayes was ordered to leave Rome, and he attributed his banishment to the machinations of the Hanoverian ambassador Baron Friedrich von Ompteda acting on behalf of the British Government. Hayes at this point went down with a fever, and then locked himself in his cell in his convent in Rome, St. Isidore’s.

The charges against Hayes, according to Dromgoole’s letter of 27 May, were (1) that he never wore the friar’s habit in Rome; (2) that he had insulted the Pope, (3) that he had discussed the actions of the Pope’s ministers publicly in coffee houses, and (4) that he had written letters to Ireland publicly criticising the minister [Consalvi] (DEP 10 July 1817). Hayes seems to have been totally devoid of all common sense and prudence. For example, though friars were dispensed from wearing their religious habit in Ireland, this dispensation did not apply in Catholic countries, and ordinary circumspection should have told a delegate not to compromise his mission with a flagrant breach of canon law. Nor did he realise that although in a Protestant state like the United Kingdom, a Catholic friar could freely criticise and abuse the king’s ministers in coffee houses, and to a large extent in print, there were no other countries in Europe where this was tolerated. It was clear that he was not acting on behalf of any group of clergy or religious, but was acting purely as the agent of a self-appointed bunch of Catholic politicians. Dromgoole, in his letter of 27 May says that as the divisions among the Irish Catholic laymen became known in Rome (seemingly from Wyse and Ball) it was realised that Hayes was only representing a faction, and so was undermined. Technically in canon law he was not a fugitive from his monastery though he clearly had abandoned the religious habit, because he was there with the permission of his own superiors. But the Pope could always order the same superiors to make him return to more spiritual duties, after his mission as delegate was accomplished. Or he himself could have asked his superiors to assign him to light duties in Rome while he kept a low profile. The Pope, in his letter to ‘the Dublin National Convention (1 February 1818), stated,

‘having abused that hospitality which he enjoyed in this city, he furnished us with many and weighty causes of grief and vexation, as well by his deportment, altogether unbecoming a man professing a religious institute, and by incessant aspersions of our government as by writings disseminated in every direction, overflowing with calumny and rancour no less injurious to Us and to the Holy See than to his own Government, of which he boasted everywhere and publicly that he was the author….

At length he proceeded to such a degree or arrogance and audacity that he did not blush to offend Ourselves by injurious expressions so that we could no longer suppress our sentiments without the abandonment of our personal dignity (usque eo demum audaciae arrogantiaeque processerit ut Nos ipsos injurissimis verbis coram offendere et aperte calumniari non erubuerit’ (DEP 9 June 1818).

Coram offendere indicates that the offence was given and the calumnious expressions made to the Pope’s face. Clearly what is being referred to is the accusation that the Pope’s minister (Consalvi) was a tool of the English, in other words that he was taking bribes. The Pope in his letter went on to explain that though he could have acted severely against the friar, he preferred to act mildly and just to request him to leave the city. The various complaints against him were by the Pope’s personal order explained to him (declaratis jussu nostro causis quas habebamus de eo conquirendi). Hayes however constantly refused to go, so he was forcibly transported to the frontier by the papal guards. The Irish Catholics have no cause to complain if the Pope’s action in these circumstances injured their cause (ibid.).

            Hayes did not see the matter in this light. He believed that he was a victim of a conspiracy of the British Government, acting through Baron von Ompteda and Parke, the British consul in Florence (Buschkuel). Finally on 16 July 1817 Hayes was escorted to the frontier.

            Famine appeared in parts of Ireland and Peel authorised the spending of £17.000 on famine relief. Parliament had actually authorised the spending of £500,000 pounds but was not used, probably because there was no local machinery to apply for loans. Peel and the Irish Government had little to do with the controversy regarding the veto beyond keeping the cabinet informed. Castlereagh, the only member of the cabinet pushing for Emancipation would be informed of any particular developments in the ordinary course of events, but neither the Lord Lieutenant nor the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, were connected with the policy one way or the other. Peel was more concerned with the outbreaks of agrarian violence. The Insurrection Act was extended for one year, and an Arms Registry Bill and a Peace Preservation Bill were introduced. Other Irish Bills occupying Peel were a Savings Bank Bill and an Irish Grand Jury Bill. Local counties were allowed to raise money for separate lunatic asylums in order to remove the lunatics from the prisons. People like Hayes and Dromgoole thought that the Government was as pre-occupied with the Catholic Question as they themselves were, whereas most people in the English and Irish Governments gave the matter scarcely a thought. Irish MPs like Sir Henry Parnell were fully occupied with this Irish legislation, but spared what time they could to the Catholics (Keenan III ).

[July 1817] Parliament arose on 12 July 1817. O’Connell had to travel to London in June to appear before the Court of King’s Bench (London) in connection with his attempted duel with Peel. He refused to give an undertaking that he would not proceed to the Continent. But he failed to get the Court of King’s Bench in Dublin to remove his recognisance of £10,000 the sum he would forfeit if he breached an order. George Ponsonby died suddenly. The Lord Lieutenant, Earl Whitworth retired and was replaced by Earl Talbot, with no change in the direction of Government policy. It continued as it had been under Wellesley-Pole to gradually root out the worst abuses in the government, and gradually and in a piecemeal fashion to adapt institutions to modern conditions. Richard Lalor Sheil was now writing plays for the London theatre with considerable success and spent much of his time there. The Irish bishops quietly dropped Dr Milner as their representative in London. It is not recorded when the first Irish bishop used the new steamboat service to England, but from this time onwards the time taken to travel to London became progressively less and less, and the journey more and more easy. John Keogh died in November at the age of seventy-seven. More importantly the heiress apparent to the throne the Princess Charlotte, the Regent’s only daughter died. King George III had many sons, and they had many children, but none of them were legitimate. So two unmarried royal dukes were ordered to take wives and produce an heir to the throne. The Duke of Kent managed to produce a daughter, named the Princess Victoria, in 1819 before he died. The indefatigable Coxe Hippisley was again in Rome pursuing his own schemes for improving diplomatic relations with the Papal States. Whether he ever did more than confuse every issue is hard to say, but the anti-vetoists assumed he was sent by the Government to campaign for the veto. He had lived in Italy between 1792 and 1796 and was well liked there.

Internal squabbles over Domestic Nomination increased rather than decreased. Edward Hay noted that in Waterford, not only the parish priests, but also every clergyman in the diocese claimed the right to vote. Not only that, but the divinity students in the diocesan college claimed to have a right to vote for their future bishop. Then in Waterford, after the clergy had obtained their choice they turned against them and criticised him (DEP 7 Feb 1822). When Dr Murray and Dr Everard were going to London to reply if necessary to any questions that might be asked they had requested introductions from Mr Hay. He gave them these firmly believing that they supported Domestic Nomination. (By this Hay meant election by parish priests alone). But a letter from Dr Dromgoole in Rome revealed that the Irish bishops were opposing Domestic Nomination. So, apparently on his own initiative Hay on 18 July 1817 wrote a circular letter to the Irish bishops asking them what their stance was. To establish if Murray differed from Troy he sent them a copy each. Troy and Murray promptly submitted a joint reply saying that as the query had been addressed to all the bishops they would not reply as individuals. The replies of the bishops varied. One expressed a general agreement with Hay’s letter but considered that a meeting of the bishops should be called. Dr Coppinger of Cork made a wordy and generally supportive reply, criticising Cardinal Consalvi, but was unsure whether Domestic Nomination was the remedy. In general, those who replied refused to commit themselves before another meeting of the bishops. Dr Marum of Ossory noted that there were several matters concerned with the rights of the Irish Church which he ought not to discuss with the Catholic Board. Dr Oliver Kelly doubted whether Domestic Nomination as then proposed would satisfy the Government. The Primate, Dr O’Reilly, was unwilling to call a meeting of the bishops to discuss the subject at that time. Those bishops who were trustees of Maynooth met four times a year, and this was obviously considered sufficient for the time being. O’Connell wrote to Hay saying that Eneas MacDonnell had got Murray’s vote against the veto and that their publication of their reply to Hay was only intended to intimidate the other bishops. He was surprised that Hay had not immediately published every publishable letter reprobating the veto and favourable to Domestic Nomination. Presumably he was to use his discretion and not to publish letters unfavourable to O’Connell. He went on,

I am, I own, greatly shocked at the part Dr Murray is taking. I had the highest opinion of him, and the greatest respect for him. But I see that he wishes, with Dr Troy’s see to inherit the patronage of the Catholic Church of Ireland. Oh! It is melancholy to think of his falling off - he who compared the vetoists to Judas.

As to Dr Troy, better could not be expected of him. His traffic at the Castle is long notorious. But the sneer at the Board, and the suppressed anger of those prelates would be ludicrous if the subject were not too important and vital. Are they angry because we urge, not the name, but the reality of Domestic Nomination. Alas, the fact is, that is just cause of their ill-temper and the source of their attack on us.

You cannot conceive anything more lively than the abhorrence of these vetoistical plans amongst the people at large. I really think they will go near to desert all such clergymen as do not now take an active part in the question. The Methodists were never in so fair a way of making converts (O’Connell to Hay 27 July 1817, Letters) .

This letter is typical of O’Connell’s rhetoric. Because the two archbishops were unwilling to discuss ecclesiastical affairs openly in the columns of newspapers he assumed they were truckling with the enemy. There was nothing in the reply of the bishops that they were angry with anybody. Dr Troy had asked for minor positions for two relatives, so clearly he was a Castle hack. This subject of appointments was a favourite one of O’Connell. To get a government post you had first to ask for it. If you asked for a position you were betraying the Catholic cause. If you did not ask for it the Government was discriminating against Catholics. He obviously believed too that the Castle administration was involved in a plot to enslave the Irish Church. And there was no doubt that ordinary Irish Catholics would be fiercely angry if told of supposed ‘vetoistical plans’ of some of the bishops in language such as that used by O’Connell. He was very embarrassed when Hay published his letter some years later. Hayes sent a letter saying that Castlereagh was seeking direct nomination in three sees in Canada, and also wished the Pope to make Dr Sebastiani of the Bible Society a cardinal (SNL 14 Aug 1817, DEP 14 August 1817). The Catholic Church in Canada was re-organised in 1817. The bishop of Quebec was officially recognised as a bishop in 1813 during the American War. Though various attempts had been made to keep out religious Orders and get control of Church property, after the American War of 1812 when the Catholics showed their loyalty, official attitudes towards the Catholics were very relaxed. Quebec was made an archbishopric in 1817 and several new dioceses were created including one at Montreal (Catholic Encyclopaedia). Nova Scotia made a vicariate apostolic, and a Scottish priest, Alexander MacDonnell, an enthusiastic supporter of the crown was made bishop. The governor of Canada was no doubt kept informed of these developments, and no doubt the Holy See was told that the Governor had no objections to the names proposed.

Early in July the Catholic Board was re-established, and commenced meeting in July. But it was only a sounding board for O’Connell. On 3 July an Aggregate Meeting was held to approve a petition for the next session. It agreed to send a letter to the bishops, and a second Remonstrance to the Pope. This latter was dispatched by Hay on 19 July 1817 and contained the following points.

1    No reply had been given to their first Remonstrance of two years earlier,

2        They deplored the treatment of their delegate, the Rev. Mr Hayes,

3        Their intercourse with Rome was of a purely spiritual nature, and they could not agree to have their affairs regulated by a ‘political minister’,

4        They warned the Pope against believing Sir John Coxe Hippisley, and

5        They entreated a concordat that would set their minds at rest by conceding Domestic Nomination (SNL 8 June 1818).

Hay followed this on 15 August 1817, with a personal letter to Cardinal Litta that is a valuable source of information about himself. He published it in Dublin after his dismissal by O’Connell (DEP 26 Jan 1822). In this he charged that the principal object of the Irish bishops was to get the nomination of their own order restricted to themselves, though they never openly avowed this. They carefully neglected any institutions that might oppose them, such as deans and chapters. Hay was quite well informed regarding the Irish bishops. In some dioceses there were clerical disputes often involving members of chapters. Many Irish bishops at that time would have preferred to abolish chapters, though later in the century they were restored in several dioceses. They had never existed in the United States, and as dioceses were formed chapters were not formed at the same time.

            On 12 July 1817 the reconstituted Catholic Board met at 17 Fownes Street and James McKenna was called to the chair. O’Connell defended himself against various accusations in Dromgoole’s letter. He had felt it necessary to try to effect a union with the vetoists even though this had the result of exposing their divisions. He denied sacrificing Fr Hayes who might have been indiscreet in some of his expressions, but was faithful and persevering. He elaborated then on the supposed plot to foist the veto on Ireland and accused Cllr William Bellew of being the leader of this plot in Ireland.

            This was a time when there were bitter disputes within various dioceses, often well documented in various diocesan archives and in the archives of Propaganda. One was of particular interest, that in Armagh where after forty years in charge the primate Dr O’Reilly died. His equally durable contemporary, Archbishop Troy had always overshadowed him. As Domestic Nomination was the burning topic of the day, the newspapers were filled with allegations and counter-allegations with regard to supposed candidates. Rome asked for additional information on the proposed candidates from the Irish bishops. Several of the bishops had studied at Salamanca under Dr Patrick Curtis who had assisted Wellington with useful information and just escaped being shot by the French as a British spy. It seems that Curtis consulted the Home Secretary [Sidmouth] and the Duke of Wellington. The latter’s endorsement, and the fact that he was not involved in the disputes in the diocese, was sufficient to secure the appointment for him in 1819, then aged seventy nine. He was still a very active man, and did not seek a younger co-adjutor until 1828. He finally died from the cholera epidemic aged ninety two.  

            [December 1817] Fr Hayes arrived back in Ireland in September, but the Catholic Board did not assemble to hear his report until December. The Board met on 13 December 1817 with Owen O’Conor in the chair. According to a priest called the Abbé O’Connor Catholic correspondence to Rome was stopped in Paris and shown to the British ambassador. Purcell O’Gorman who considered that no special measures were required denied this. Hayes presented his report which was a summary of the various actions he had taken in Rome. He presented his accounts. He had spent £840 and had received £370, so that the sum of £470 was due to him. A committee was set up to liquidate the debt to Hayes. [Top]


The Turn of the Tide (1818 to 1820)


            [1818] O’Connell’s Catholic Board was to have met in January to report on the progress regarding Hayes’ debts, but did not meet. Parliament resumed sitting on 27 January 1818. It was reported in February that Troy had received a letter from Cardinal Litta saying that the Holy See would not accept Domestic Nomination, but preferred to keep the existing method.

[April 1818] A public dinner for Fr Hayes was given on 23 April 1817 with O’Connell in the chair. Donoughmore wrote to Edward Hay advising the Catholics not to petition until they had sorted out their differences. The Catholic Board met in April to receive an account of the Board’s debts that amounted to £3926, and to consider Donoughmore’s letter. The treasurer mentioned that he had orders to pay the following debts: to Hugh Fitzpatrick the bookseller for rent, postage, stationery, etc. £830; to Edward Hay the sum voted as a testimony of gratitude £1,137 (1000 Irish guineas?); to the silversmith who made the service for Mr O’Connell £1,000; to the Rev. Richard Hayes £412; to sundries £546, the total being £3926 3 shillings and nine pence (figures rounded DEP 30 April 1818). It was agreed not to call an Aggregate Meeting for the moment. O’Connell had by this time taken over the accounts from Hay. A letter from Cork was published asking what had happened to all the money sent from Cork over the years. O’Connell replied that the accounts were always open to public inspection, that no general request had ever been made to the counties for funds, though many country gentlemen had subscribed, and that he himself, far from profiting personally, had subscribed more than any other gentleman (DEP 9,12 May 1818). The office of treasurer seems to have been the only official office ever held by O’Connell in any of his associations. In that office he could keep a close eye on all receipts and decide which debts to pay should the likelihood of legal action for the recovery of debt become too urgent. (Nicholas Mahon, the banker, was the official treasurer, but the daily oversight of income and expenditure was a duty which O’Connell took away from Hay.) It is also notable that O’Connell avoided taking the chair at public meetings. The chair was supposed to act in a fair manner and call speakers with different views while largely keeping silent himself. (The money voted to Hay was never paid, even when he was reduced to extreme poverty.)

            [June 1818] Troy informed Hay on 19 May that a reply had come from Rome so a meeting O’Connell’s Catholic Board was called for the 1 June 1818, and it convened in D’Arcy’s Tavern. Fr Hayes announced his intention of writing to the Pope offering his full submission. At this O’Connell expressed his regret with great emphasis that he had employed a priest as a delegate. This was a reply to their Remonstrance of 17 July 1817, and it had been sent through Archbishop Troy. Though the Latin letter was to hand there was not yet a translation of it, so little could be done until a translation was provided. (Most gentlemen at the time who had attended grammar or similar schools and matriculated for university could probably have translated the document themselves. It was only later that schools concentrated exclusively on teaching the Latin as used in the Roman Empire. The grammar of later Latin was much simpler, so the main difficulty would arise from the unfamiliar vocabulary. But again Latin dictionaries of the time included medieval and later words.) A second copy had been sent to Archbishop Troy who commissioned Bernard Clinch to attend the meeting and ensure that the Pope’s letter was read out accurately, as Cardinal Litta had ordered him to report how the decision of the Pope had been received. He later clarified that he had been asked merely to verify that the letter had been received by the Board, and read fully. A committee of several gentlemen and including the Carmelite priest Fr. L’Estrange, was appointed to make a translation, and also to wait on Troy to ask to see Litta’s accompanying letter to Troy (SNL 2, 4, 8 June 1818; DEP 2, 9 June 1818). The Board met again on the 3 June, but Hay informed them that the translation was not yet finished, and also a document referred to in the Pope’s reply, which the Board had not seen. Troy furnished a copy of this document, but not the letter from Litta. This document had also to be translated. O’Connell said this document had been in Troy’s possession for two years, but they were never informed about it. The intense suspiciousness regarding the supposed machinations of the British Government can be seen in Buschkuel’s account.

            Troy was unable to furnish a copy of Litta’s letter as he had mislaid it but Archbishop Murray and Dr Hamill had seen it, and could testify that the letter merely requested that the Pope’s reply should be transmitted to the Catholic laity. The failure to produce the letter naturally increased suspicions still further. The next meeting of the Board was on the 8 June 1818, again in D’Arcy’s Tavern. The original and the translation were made available to the newspapers.

            The Pope’s letter of 1 February 1818 said that he had not replied to the laity because he had replied to the bishops from whom they could easily have received a copy of his letter. Also, the Holy See had disliked the tone of the letter that did not reflect the usual devotion and zeal to the people of Ireland to the Holy See. The Holy See could not either approve or dissimulate so it preferred to ignore the letter (neque probare neque prorsus dissimulare which the Post translated as neither approve or altogether suppress.) The Pope had only the interests of religion at heart.

‘Therefore, when we signified that we would permit those things if the British Government would pass an Act of Emancipation which would entirely favour the Catholics, we were induced to it by no temporal considerations or political counsels, of which it would be wrong and impermissible even to suspect us (quod vel suspicari de Nobis nefas est), but We had solely in view the interests and well-being of the Catholic religion’.

He had two objects in mind, one to obtain for Catholics the free exercise of their religion, and the other to remove the penal legislation that might deter Protestants from returning to the true Church.

With regard to Domestic Nomination, he ordered them to be at ease (tranquillo animo vos esse jubemus). Those things which were promised to be conceded to the Government would only be permitted after an Emancipation Act had been passed (declarasse tantum id Nos emancipatione secuta non aegre fore permissuros). In other words, there was no agreement between the Holy See and any other body, but only a declaration of what the Holy See could concede after Emancipation was granted. It was a declaration of principle only, and its execution would depend on the wording of the Emancipation Act when finally passed.

With regard to the treatment of Fr Hayes, they seemed to think that his conduct had given no cause for complaint, and that the actions of the Holy See in his regard were the result of foreign influences. The Pope’s complaints about the conduct of Fr Hayes have been given above [May 1817].Furthermore, as a report in a newspaper of the preceding December [1817] on his return to Ireland showed he had not ceased from his lies and calumnies (mendaciis et calumniis). There is little doubt that on reading this Fr. Hayes realised at last that he had far over-stepped the bounds of decent conduct.

            The Catholic Board then demanded to see the letter that the Pope had sent to the Irish bishops in 1816. Troy furnished a copy from which some passages that were the concern only of the bishops were removed. The letter was published in the newspapers (SNL 6 July 1818). This did not satisfy the members of the Board, who demanded to see the whole letter. It again repeated that all that would be allowed was that the king’s ministers would be allowed to veto a particular candidate of whose loyalty to the crown the Government had suspicions. It was proposed to send an appropriate acknowledgement of the Pope’s paternal affection and gracious regard as manifested in his letter to the Board, but O’Connell and other felt that this was going too far at the moment. This series of meetings in June 1818 are only of interest because of the light they throw on Hayes’ mission. Otherwise, the fire had gone out, and the members of the Board were only raking over the dying embers. The Catholic Board adjourned to November but seems never to have met again. No petition from the Irish Catholics was sent to Parliament in 1818, and Grattan preferred to take no action until the general election that was due took place.

[July 1818] The Prince Regent had dissolved parliament on 10 June, and canvassing for the election commenced immediately. Grattan was returned unopposed in Dublin. William Conyngham Plunket was elected for Trinity College. O’Connell assisted the Knight of Kerry in Kerry. Though the Whigs were considered to have made considerable gains Lord Liverpool retained his majority. The Whigs alone could never carry an Emancipation Bill but depended on the votes of the moderate Tories. Peel retired to the backbenches and did not take office again until 1822. A young man said to be of liberal bent called Charles Grant replaced him. Coxe Hippisley noted that a majority of those in the cabinet now favoured Emancipation. That the Tories succeeded in gaining 73 seats out of 100 in Ireland was regarded as being the result of Peel’s skilful management. The Dublin Evening Post recorded that a road had been constructed into Kerry as far as Cahirciveen near which was O’Connell’s country home. Carts and coaches could now reach far into Kerry. Cardinal Litta was made Cardinal Vicar of the diocese of Rome, and was succeeded as Prefect of Propaganda by Cardinal Fontana.

[November 1818] Some local petitions for emancipation were prepared. Edward Hay was arrested for the failure to pay some debts of the Catholic Board. George Fitzpatrick finally sued for debt dating back to 1811. A committee of eight gentlemen, who were personal friends of Hay, formed itself to pay off the debt, which O’Connell refused to pay because it was incurred when the Earl of Fingall was the Catholic leader. The particular debt was paid off, and Hay was released. Hay did not belong to either of the factions and attended both sets of meetings indiscriminately. Consequently O’Connell would not assist him. The debt for which he was imprisoned amounted to £259. O’Connell’s advice was to contest the action, but Hay objected to this as the legal costs of both parties would be added to the original debt, as had happened in a similar case when someone followed this advice (SNL 26 Nov 1818, 21 July 1824).

An interesting case arose in New South Wales, where an Irish priest, Fr Jeremiah Flynn was appointed prefect apostolic by the Pope at his own request. The Pope assented, believing that the British Government would not object. He tried to get a free passage to the penal colony but was told he would have to pay his own passage. He was also told that he would have present proof of his appointment through an English vicar apostolic. For whatever reason he travelled to Sydney, Australia, without official permission and he was arrested and deported. However, the Secretary for War and the Colonies, Lord Bathurst, made it plain that the British Government had no objection to Catholic missionary bishops, provided they were properly appointed, and were men of suitable character. In  1821, the Government appointed two Catholic chaplains to the colonists at a salary of £100 a year each. William Wellesley Pole had sanctioned the payment of Catholic chaplains to Irish gaols, and there was no objection by Catholic priests to receive the salary (DEP 22, 31 December 1818; Catholic Encyclopaedia ‘Australia’). Henry Bathurst, 3rd Lord Bathurst, favoured Emancipation.

[January 1819] The beginning of the year 1819 was marked by the great Protestant petition for Emancipation, signed by the Duke of Leinster, the Earls of Meath and Charlemont, Lord Cloncurry, Henry Grattan etc. (DEP 19 Jan 1819). The new Parliament commenced its sittings on 14 January 1819. A great Protestant meeting in the Rotunda, Dublin, of over 3,000 gentlemen followed it in February, which was chaired by the Duke of Leinster (DEP 4 Feb 1819). The English Catholic Board now met under the chairmanship of the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal of England. (The principal duties of the Earl Marshal include organising public functions involving the monarchy, such as coronations, weddings, and funerals.) The English Catholic Board got up a petition to which 10,000 signatures were appended (Ward II). The Dublin Evening Post noted that the desire to see the Emancipation was widespread, but people preferred to get up petitions locally quietly and without fuss. It would seem that public opinion was slowly turning in favour of the Catholics. Sheil’s most successful play, ‘Evadne’ was produced in London in February.

Why then did O’Connell seize this moment to attack to innocuous Edward Hay?  Hay had written a letter on 20 October 1818 to Peter Moore MP giving his version of events since 1792, especially with regard to his opposition to the veto from when he first heard of it. He accused the Irish bishops of seeking to get the choice of new bishops restricted to their own body, and it seems he was right in this (printed in Freeman’s Journal 29 January 1819). Meanwhile O’Connell got himself involved in an attack on Archbishop Troy and Archbishop Murray. This had started when O’Connell wrote on 22 October 1818 the first of what were facetiously called his ‘pastoral letters’ to the Catholics of Ireland. Eneas MacDonnell replied to some allegations he had made in it. O’Connell replied to this, accusing Troy of being a vetoist, and again raked over events going back several years (DEP 2 February 1819). He claimed that there was a ‘managing group’ among the Irish bishops who organised others so that they favoured the veto. As usual, his ‘proof’ consisted in repeating allegations that had been made over the years, entirely ignoring what the other side said in reply. There does not seem to have been anything more involved in this dispute than a determination not to let Eneas MacDonnell get the better in an argument. The Dublin Evening Post commented that O’Connell was perfectly aware of the true facts, but also observed that MacDonnell seemed to be implying that he was going soft on the veto. Sheil in 1821 concluded that at this time O’Connell was trying to prepare an exit for himself, and was playing down opposition to the veto which, if unduly prolonged, would mean that he would never be able to become a King’s Counsel (SNL 12 Jan 1821). O’Connell also accused Edward Hay of suppressing a letter from Archbishop Murray in 1817, and Hay replied denying this, and said that Murray had not replied separately to his circular letter, but had replied jointly with Troy (Freeman’s Journal 2 February 1819). Another letter to the Freeman’s Journal said that Cardinal Litta had told Dr. Dromgoole, then residing in Rome for health reasons, that the Irish bishops objected to nominations or elections by parish priests (Freeman’s Journal 3 Feb 1819). But the lay supporters of Domestic Nomination, distrusting the bishops, made election by the parochial clergy the central point in their system. This was, of course, a private dispute between some of the laity and their bishops. As far as the proposers of the veto in Parliament were concerned it made no difference who chose the names on the terna so long as the Government got to see the list officially before it was sent to the Pope. In practice, the names on the terna chosen by the parish priests were published in the Dublin newspapers on the day following the election, while recommendations by the bishops were not. As usual we are left guessing what game O’Connell was playing.

[March 1819]  In March 1819 an Aggregate Meeting was held in the Old Chapel, Mary’s Lane, with Lord Fingall in the chair, and Edward Hay as secretary, to thank the Protestants for their support. Lord Fingall had obviously decided to resume his role as Catholic leader. The Dublin Evening Post considered it was the largest Catholic meeting that had ever assembled. Most of the old Catholic leaders attended including Lord Gormanston, Sir Thomas Esmonde, Sir Edward Bellew, Owen O’Conor, Daniel O’Connell, Randall MacDonnell, Purcel O’Gorman, Nicholas Mahon, Richard Sheil, etc.

A vacancy for a bishop had occurred in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. The vicar capitular, a temporary official elected to take charge of a diocese on the death of a bishop, called the priests of the diocese together to choose the name for the vacant diocese to be forwarded to Rome. (As the name vicarius capitularis implies he should have been a member of the chapter and elected by the chapter. But in the absence of a chapter the priests of the diocese elected him. There seems to have been little objection to this. Troy in fact gave express permission to the priests to elect a vicar capitular.) The priests summoned by the vicar capitular met and chose Fr James Doyle OSA the former student in Coimbra, but now teaching in the local college. The bishops of the province concurred, and there was no difficulty (SNL 25 March 1819 citing the Carlow Morning Post). The search for a successor to Archbishop O’Reilly of Armagh had been going on for two years, and the bishops of the province were unable to endorse any of the candidates. The aged and now retired rector of the College in Salamanca, Dr Patrick Curtis, was induced by the bishops to allow his name to go forward. He accepted on the condition that his name was notified to the Government and their consent obtained, and he wrote to his old acquaintance the Duke of Wellington apprising him of this fact. Wellington immediately commended him to Sidmouth (Addington) the Home Secretary. He was then appointed by the Pope along with Doyle (Curtis DNB). Curtis became the Primate and nominal head of the Irish Church. No powers were attached to this office, but by custom, if the bishops were to convene to discuss a common problem, it was the duty of the Primate to summon such meetings and preside over them. These meetings could be informal, as most of them were, or formal as in a national synod.

[May 1819] On 3 May 1819 Grattan brought in his motion that the House should resolve itself into a committee to consider the state of the laws as they affected the Catholics. A fine speech was made by John Wilson Croker, Secretary to the Admiralty, in favour of the Catholics, despite the fact that he was a close friend of Peel. The motion was lost by only two votes, and this was regarded as showing the favourable mind of the new Parliament. Of the Irish MPs who voted, 57 were for the motion and 34 against. Donoughmore introduced the corresponding motion in the Lords where it was defeated by 47 votes.

[June 1819] On 10 June Earl Grey introduced the Second Reading of his Bill to remove the oaths against transubstantiation in the English Acts of the 25th Charles II (the Test Act) and the 30 Charles II. Transubstantiation was a fundamental Catholic doctrine that nobody could deny and still remain a Catholic. For this reason the Act was called the Test Act. The first Act excluded English Catholics from civil offices, and the second Act excluded them from Parliament. He noted that it had been agreed in the recent debates that no purely spiritual obstacles should be placed in people’s way with regard to the exercise of civil liberties, and that the sole objection against the Catholics was that they were subject to a foreign jurisdiction, and that Catholic doctrine like the invocation of Mary and the saints or transubstantiation should no longer be an obstacle. He also pointed out that Catholic peers continued to sit in the Lords from the time of Henry VIII until Charles II because the sovereign dispensed from the oaths. The motion was defeated by 141 votes to 82 showing that there was still a strong anti-Catholic feeling in the Lords. The Test Act also excluded Protestant Dissenters. As these were not subject to a foreign jurisdiction, the removal of purely spiritual tests would have enabled them to be elected to Parliament. (In Ireland the corresponding Act was passed in 1704, and the English Acts were made effective in Ireland in 1782). Repealing the Test Act was seen by both sides as establishing a precedent for religious toleration.

There was some talk of reviving the Catholic Board, but the Dublin Evening Post considered that most people were sick of it, and Saunders Newsletter concurred. The latter newspaper observed that the disputes among the Catholics since 1812 had alienated much Protestant support for their cause, but now that the quarrels were at an end Protestant support was reviving.

[July 1819] An Aggregate Meeting was called for 1 July 1819, and met in the Old Chapel in Mary’s Lane to draw up a petition. Fingall’s group did not attend, and Colonel Anthony MacDermott took the chair. . Sheil attended and there was a general call for him to speak. He said there was no point in abusing the Duke of Wellington, and declaiming against the Act of Union was of no assistance. O’Connell, who could never resist going over old grievances referred to the Resolutions, including the ‘Witchery Resolution’ of 1812. He referred to a recent article in the Post regarding them. Conway, the editor of the Post who was present claimed he had the story from Edward Hay. Hay, consequently in a letter to Carrick’s Morning Post  went over the whole question, and claimed he had warned Canning (DEP 13 July 1819). This gave O’Connell the ammunition he needed to destroy Hay, whose crime seems to have been that he remained neutral between O’Connell and Fingall. Admitting that as secretary to the Irish Catholics he had unauthorised communications with the Government was as damning as James Ryan’s admission that he had sought a public position from Fox. With regard to the Resolutions O’Connell was as puzzled as anybody else, but he recognised that Hay had admitted something that could be used against him when the time was ripe. Parliament rose on 13 July 1819.

[August 1819] The appointments of Dr Doyle and Dr Curtis to their respective dioceses were announced in August, and until the death of Curtis in 1832 and Doyle in 1834 they worked closely with Archbishop Murray and each trusted the judgement of the other two. The divisions which were to rack the Irish Church in the near half-century when John MacHale was archbishop of Tuam lay in the future. The problem lay in the fact that MacHale, like O’Connell was unable to agree with anybody for long. Doyle commenced a correspondence with his local MP Sir Henry Parnell that lasted until his death.

The great topic of the hour was the Bolivar’s War of Independence in Venezuela and British and Irish volunteers were recruited to help the fight. Among those who went was one of O’Connell’s sons. O’Connell had a great admiration for what Bolivar had achieved, and later Bolivar’s title ‘The Liberator’ was transferred to himself without much justification, for others had done as much as he had to achieve Emancipation.

[November 1819] At a meeting in November, held at D’Arcy’s in Essex Street presided over by the Earl of Fingall it was decided to present an Irish Catholic petition. The venue shows it was not an Aggregate Meeting. When it resumed two days later Edward Hay was no longer Secretary to the Meeting or Secretary to the Irish Catholics and Purcell O’Gorman was acting as secretary. Various charges were made against Hay, but it is not clear if Hay himself asked that a committee should hear them. The principal charge, stated by O’Connell, was that he admitted writing about March or April last an unauthorised letter to Canning. The second charge was that he had inserted an article in the Dublin Evening Post concerning this letter. The charges were damning, and Hay was dismissed (DEP 11, 13 23 November 1819). Nicholas Purcell O’Gorman, a loyal supporter of O’Connell, took his position. Though this was supposed to be kind of military ‘court of honour’ several gentlemen nominated by Hay declined to take part in it. Obviously they regarded it as a ‘kangaroo court’ and with reason. But it did not help Hay. Hay explained that he had written to Canning, now a member of the cabinet, saying that he wished to explain how he thought the Witchery Resolution came about, and that it did not express the general opinion of the Irish Catholics regarding the court of the Prince Regent. Conway, who from now onwards was taking a more open and active role to assist the Catholics said he had published the letter to show how easy it was to get any resolution passed at a Catholic meeting, and to warn the Catholics not to make a similar mistake again. There was no personal attack on O’Connell who was equally in the dark regarding the switch. But the charge was sufficient for O’Connell to get rid of Hay who was too independent. Hay also pointed out that O’Connell wrote to ministers anytime he felt like it, and claimed the court of honour vindicated him. But he was never employed by any Catholic body again, and for many years his salary as Catholic Secretary was his sole source of income, for he had no independent means. (Hay had been disinherited by his father because he went in 1795 as a delegate with the General Petition to the king. He was supposed to get a small legacy but his life was spent in a lawsuit with his brother trying to get it, but never received a penny. In his last years he was supported by friends (DEP 17 Oct 1826).

But O’Connell was never able to get rid of Conway who out-lasted him, and who had a very long and exact memory regarding facts O’Connell would prefer forgotten. Conway was now aware of a pattern emerging in O’Connell’s conduct: he was not a bit worried if those who tried to assist him or took his legal advice ended up in gaol. He always wanted to continue the legal struggle in their behalf, regardless of the risks, they not he, ran. But on no account would he pay to get them out of prison. This had happened with the editor of the Dublin Evening Post, John Magee in 1814, Harding Tracy the printer in 1815, and Edward Hay in 1819. (Conway recounted the affair of Harding Tracy in the Post on 11 February 1834.) Conway, like the Earl of Donoughmore, was a staunch anti-vetoist. No doubt many other Catholics came to the same conclusions about O’Connell at the same time.

From this time onwards, the Protestant Frederick Conway took a leading part in the struggle for Emancipation, especially in the great days of the Catholic Association. He once boasted that he drafted more resolutions and letters etc. than O’Connell himself. He recognised O’Connell’s enormous abilities, and with regard to personal abusive attacks on himself by O’Connell he said that was a fate few escaped. Though he had started out as a young man trying to get the Act of Union repealed he became a convinced Unionist. For the next thirty years his comments about O’Connell in his newspaper, the Dublin Evening Post were always worth reading.

 Parliament was recalled early to pass the emergency legislation known as the ‘Six Acts’ to deal with disturbances in the manufacturing districts in England. As Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth was responsible for their passing.

[February 1820] The old king, George III, finally died after a nominal reign of sixty years, though the Prince Regent had been the actual ruler for many years past. [Top]

The New King (1820 to 1821)

            Though a general election had been recently held, and there was no actual change of ruler, the formal ceremonies of state had to be gone through. The deceased king had to be given a proper funeral, and the court had to go into mourning. Though the new king was immediately proclaimed as George IV he had, after a decent interval, to be crowned. Meetings had to be held to send messages both of condolence and congratulation to the new king. Finally, as was customary, the new king dissolved Parliament and called for a new general election. This custom dated from a time when there was no fixed duration of Parliaments, and a new king summoned a Parliament from all parts of his kingdom to hear the concerns of his subjects. Any petitions drawn up for presentation to the old Parliament lapsed. In Italy, the Princess of Wales, George IV’s estranged wife, announced that she was now queen of England and demanded a papal guard. Consalvi diplomatically replied that this would be provided just as soon as the official communication arrived from London confirming the fact arrived. George in fact totally refused to have her crowned queen.

            On 26 February 1820 an Aggregate Meeting summoned by Fingall and O’Connell assembled in Liffey Street chapel to approve a loyal address to the new king. Fingall was in the chair, and Purcell O’Gorman was secretary. At the end Archbishop Troy was called on to propose the vote off thanks to the chairman. There was an outbreak of agrarian violence in the west of Ireland

            [March April 1820] The king dissolved Parliament and called a general election, and it was considered that the Whigs had made some gains, sufficient to give a pro-Catholic majority in the House of Commons. Castlereagh was returned for county Down for the sixth time. Grattan again returned for Dublin City. The parish priest of Bandon, Fr John England, took some part in a controversy in Cork, where some Catholic gentlemen were opposing the Earl of Donoughmore’s brother. He was soon afterwards appointed bishop of Charleston in the United States, a vast sprawling area, largely wilderness in the southern states. The new Parliament assembled in Westminster on 27 April 1820.

            [May 1820] Early in May a meeting was called in Dublin to draw up a petition for Emancipation to the new Parliament, and to discuss what to do if Grattan, whose health was rapidly failing, was unable to act as their representative. Fingall had gone to London to present the address to the new king so he was not present. Grattan wrote to say that he was about to travel to London. To make his journey easier he proposed to travel most of the way through England by canal (SNL 19 May 1820). O’Connell pointed out the advisability of drawing up a new petition, for technically the existing petition had been drawn up addressed to the last parliament, and he did not wish to see the petition founder on a technicality. The Aggregate Meeting was postponed until after Fingall’s return. The initiative had clearly passed to Fingall’s party.

        [June 1820] The Aggregate Meeting took place in Liffey Street chapel with the permission of Archbishop Troy on 1 June 1820. As Lord Fingall was detained in Wales because of an accident to his son, Sir Edward Bellew was voted to the chair. According to the Post, Sir Edward made a judicious speech, while O’Connell made a harangue. The text of the petition was prepared by O’Connell and was adopted with a few amendments.

Grattan died on 4 June 1820 at a house in Baker Street, London, where he was staying, a few days after his arrival. Saunders Newsletter commented that he had made the journey knowing that it might result in his death. A successor had to be found quickly. On 10 June a meeting presided over by Lord Fingall appointed a committee to seek a suitable parliamentary representative in the Commons. The strongly anti-vetoist Earl of Donoughmore would still act in the Lords. Grattan had refused to act if he was subject to conditions. Sir Henry Parnell had been willing to act on the anti-vetoist petition, but had proved a disaster. The committee was composed of the Earl of Fingall, Daniel O’Connell, John O’Connell, Joseph Plunket, Thomas Kirin, Randall MacDonnell, and Nicholas Mahon (SNL 14 June 1820). They reported at their next meeting that they had decided on Mr William (Conyngham) Plunket MP for Dublin University, but that was not the whole story. O’Connell then moved an adjournment, which was passed by 28 votes to 26. He explained his reasons in a letter to the Dublin Evening Post. He said that the committee that recommended Plunket was evenly split, seven against seven, but Fingall used his casting vote in favour of Plunket. (Saunders gave only seven names, but others could have been added later.) The seven objectors were not satisfied with Plunket’s answers to questions concerning ‘unqualified’ Emancipation. (DEP 17 June 1820; Maurice Fitzgerald, the Knight of Kerry, seems to have been O’Connell’s choice.) Plunket stated in writing on 23 June that he would advocate some securities. A large meeting on the previous day, voted by 89 votes to 83 to ask Plunket to present their petition, and so he was adopted. The votes would seem to indicate that Lord Fingall had still more votes in the Dublin area than O’Connell.

        A by-election was called in Dublin City to fill the vacancy. One of Grattan's sons was put up by was surprisingly defeated by an ‘Orange’ Candidate. Conway considered that they had put up the wrong candidate, and there were better people available than one whose only claim was his father’s name. In Louth, at another election, Sir Edward Bellew, one of the principal landowners in the county proposed a Whig gentleman named Balfour to stand against the Fosters. Sir Edward seems to have been acting for a group of Whigs that included Alexander Dawson, but nothing came of their initiate at this time. But as events were to show, the political scene had begun to change, and then to change rapidly.

[July 1820] On 17 July 1820, Plunket presented the Irish petition, but it was decided not to put forward a motion on it during that session as the attention of Parliament would be taken up, at the insistence of the king, with an enquiry into the alleged adultery of the queen, and to secure a divorce for the king. Donoughmore also deferred his motion. George had only married her because of his father’s insistence, and always detested her. The reluctant Earl of Liverpool instituted the enquiry on 5 July 1820. The examination of witnesses commenced on 21 August. On 10 November, with the queen’s guilt virtually proved, Liverpool moved an adjournment for six months, in effect abandoning the bill. For he realised that the sympathy of the country was with the queen, and the Government’s majority was steadily falling in the Commons. Consalvi skilfully avoided being drawn into the attempt to find evidence against the queen. It was alleged that she had committed adultery with an Italian, Bartolomeo Bergami whom she had taken into her service in Italy and who travelled everywhere with her. His answer to every question put to him ‘Non mi ricordo (I don’t remember) because a catchphrase for the rest of the century. The queen was defended by the rising Whig barrister, Henry Brougham (afterwards Lord Brougham) who sought and was given the title of Queen’s Attorney. O’Connell immediately asked to be appointed Queen’s Attorney in Ireland, totalling disregarding the effect this might have on the king. The appointment was chiefly an honorary one, but the appointee would represent the queen if she were ever engaged in a lawsuit in the courts.

[December 1820] O’Connell’s son Morgan wrote from South America giving details of Bolivar’s Order of Liberators. Owen O’Conor of Belanagare became the O’Conor Don in December when a senior collateral branch died out.

[January 1821] At the beginning of 1821 O’Connell wrote another of his addresses to the people of Ireland, and advised against further petitioning to an unreformed Parliament. Sheil replied in a letter of his own to the people of Ireland, and totally condemned the proposal to abandon Emancipation in favour of Parliamentary Reform. Nor did he think that the Irish Catholics as a single body should take a stance on the latter issue. The only change in the political scene was the resignation of Canning from the cabinet, and that was an insufficient reason for a major change in policy. ‘He builds on this single circumstance his ill-constructed fabric of despair’. With regard to Securities, O’Connell had said he did not consider them a major issue compared with the right given to lawyers to become king’s counsels, and in any case an unofficial veto was already in place. Many Catholics in Dublin were unconcerned about securities, and left them entirely in Mr Plunket’s hands. He concluded by comparing O’Connell to a balloon blown about by the winds (SNL 12 Jan 1821).

What is surprising about this letter is the sudden arrival of Sheil at full maturity, feeling confident about attacking O’Connell directly. He was not a gifted orator, nor was he particularly learned in the law. He failed to earn a living at the bar, and turned to writing plays at which he had considerable success in London. Before he went to London he was a minor figure in Fingall’s party, but on his return he became their leading speaker. He could never hope to rival his opponent in popular oratory, which does not mean he did not try. But he knew that he had a sound case, supported by most of the Catholic lords and gentlemen, one which the bishops were prepared to accept after it had been approved by the Pope, and one which many Protestants were prepared to accept. He recognised that often O’Connell had no fixed opinions and just spoke on the side that suited himself best at the time. It may very well be that he saw his own prospects of advancing in his legal career vanishing if O’Connell’s advice were followed. But there was more to it than that. He was becoming indispensable to the gentlemen of Fingall’s party because he was a trained barrister and public speaker who was not afraid of O’Connell. He was also more trusted by people who never knew what O’Connell’s intent was. In a few years time it was recognised that the only hope for Emancipation lay in persuading Sheil and O’Connell to work together.

Sheil was at this time just thirty years old while O’Connell was forty six. Sheil had had little success at the bar, while O’Connell was well-established. It was Sheil’s work in the Catholic Association that brought legal clients to him. He was much better educated than O’Connell, being a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and had much wider interests. O’Connell’s ambitions never went beyond the Munster legal circuit, and politics in Munster, knowing little, and caring less even about the northern parts of Ireland. Sheil had his interest in the theatre, and when he eventually entered the House of Commons had a particular interest in foreign affairs. After Emancipation was won he retained no hard feelings about his opponents and cheerfully accepted legal briefs from them. Unlike O’Connell (and indeed Grattan) who were only happy in opposition and being free to criticise everything they disliked, Sheil was not averse to sharing responsibility by accepting office. O’Connell’s reply was immediate and sharp, but Sheil’s view prevailed (SNL 15 Jan 1821). (Sheil’s father had become bankrupt, and he had difficulty in supporting himself and his wife by his earnings at the bar and in the theatre. His first wife did and he married a rich widow in 1830 who enabled him to get enough income from land to qualify to be a Member of Parliament.)

The new Parliament opened on 23 January 1821.

[February 1821] On 23 February Donoughmore presented several petitions. On 28 February several petitions were presented in the Commons including the English and Irish petitions. On 3rd March 1821 Plunket in a powerful speech moved that the House go into committee to consider the Catholic question. Charles Grant the Irish Secretary and Castlereagh supported the motion. Peel opposed the motion but it was carried by 227 votes to 221. Leave was given to bring in a Bill, and Plunket, William Wilberforce, Charles Grant, Castlereagh, Sir John Newport, and Sir Henry Parnell were among those on the committee.

In general Plunket’s Bill followed Canning’s 1813 Bill, but reaction in Ireland was now muted. Poynter objected to the text of the oath of loyalty to be taken by the clergy and suggested amendments which Plunket accepted. Ward noted that most people had come round to the view that the restrictions were only being imposed pro forma to satisfy the extreme opponents of the measure, and would soon be a dead letter (Ward II). Reaction in the old style came from only two people, Dr Milner and Fr Hayes. Peel presented Hayes’ petition against the Bill! The local MP for Wexford Mr Carew said he knew the Rev. Mr Hayes well in Wexford where he was always at Catholic meetings trying to get resolutions insulting to the crown and legislature passed but they were never adopted. His own bishop had had to reprimand and silence him for preaching a sermon against the Act of Union. Finally in Rome he had insulted the Pope (SNL 28 March 1821). He then read a letter from Wexford saying that the Catholics favoured the Bill.

 With regard to Milner, Ward noted that by this stage, those who had discussions with Milner always insisted on having a third party present to avoid subsequent misquotation. Milner went over to Maynooth to meet the Irish bishops and was received courteously, but that was all. Poynter wrote to Curtis in November 1821,

‘There is something most unaccountable in his character which excites our religious, our charitable, and our compassionate concern for him as a bishop and as a brother, but cannot excite our confidence’ (Ward II).


[March 1821] The Emancipation Bill (1821) made it clear that the oath of Supremacy referred only to civil affairs, and proposed repealing the Test Act and maintaining the Protestant Succession to the throne. Catholics were to be excluded from spiritual appointments, and from offices like that of the Lord Chancellor which made recommendations regarding spiritual appointments. With regard to the Securities, the Catholic clergy were to take an oath of loyalty; no foreigners were to be appointed bishops; five years residence in the kingdom prior to election was required; a committee consisting of Catholic bishops and Protestant privy councillors would examine the merits of those recommended to Rome. The Government could express ‘His Majesty’s disapprobation’ (DEP 12 March 1821). Plunket’s Bill passed its Second Reading on 16 March by 254 votes to 243.Castlereagh observed that he always objected to the oath against transubstantiation, and with regard to the oath of Supremacy, all the Catholic clergy who had been consulted agreed that it might be taken by Catholics, i.e. with regard to secular jurisdiction. The spiritual jurisdiction of the Pope had been recognised indirectly [by the Government consulting Catholic bishops and appointing them trustees of Maynooth]. He preferred to see this spiritual jurisdiction admitted in an open way, but recognised and controlled by law (SNL 26 March 1821). An attempt was made as in 1813 to insert a clause preventing Catholics from entering Parliament was made unsuccessfully. Croker wished state provision for the clergy to be included in the Bill, but Castlereagh objected. If it were provided, it was a separate issue and the subject of a separate Bill. The Bill passed its Third Reading by a majority of 19 and was carried to the Lords.  O’Connell suddenly aroused himself to attack the Bill claiming characteristically that it was a penal and persecuting Bill, but Sheil defended Plunket. He called an emergency Aggregate Meeting when O’Connell and most of the barristers were away on circuit. Two Resolutions were passed, one of thanks to Plunket, and another, proposed by Nicholas Mahon, expressing support for the reservations of the Catholic bishops. Conway of the Post was criticised for not supporting O’Connell sufficiently vigorously. He replied,

        ‘If, indeed, we had spoken of Mr. Plunket in a tone of obloquy and insolence - if we had described the advocates of the Bill as enemies of the Catholics of Ireland - if we denounced any man beyond the pale of our own special opinion as a slave and a conspirator, there might have been some ground for the accusation’. Conway was opposed to the Securities, but he caught the tone and flavour of O’Connell’s denunciation well. There were various meetings of the Catholic clergy, and they for the most part recorded some objections to the Securities, especially the oaths required of them. Their various Resolutions were sent in a quiet manner to the parliamentary proposers of the Bill. At this point Plunket’s wife died and he retired from politics for a while. Sir John Newport took over the direction of the Bill. The Bill was rather predictably defeated in the Lords by 159 votes to 120, but the Post commented that this was the best result so far.

        When O’Connell returned from the legal circuit in Munster he called for a dinner for Milner, then in Dublin, and also for an Aggregate Meeting. His real object was to get the Resolution’s passed at Sheil’s Aggregate Meeting reversed. Events were overtaken by the news that the king was to visit Ireland. Fingall’s party proposed a meeting for the sole purpose of voting an address to the king. The requisition was signed by the Catholic nobility and also by Sheil, the O’Conor Don, and Nicholas Mahon. Milner declined the dinner, and O’Connell held another meeting to call for an Aggregate Meeting for the sole purpose of addressing the king. He asserted that Fingall’s party must have an ulterior motive. O’Connell backed down, but Conway remarked that those managing the meeting had acted unwisely by not asking O’Connell for his signature. They were acting, he said,

Upon a feeling which is precisely similar to that which is sometimes said to actuate Mr. O’Connell himself, namely a view to leadership and personal triumph, perhaps of personal arrogance… let them beware however - Mr O’Connell is intemperate, agitating, what you will – but ‘The stag at bay is a dangerous foe’ (DEP 5 July 1821)

It is not clear if Fingall’s party was aware of O’Connell’s sudden change of tack, and Conway suspected him of trickery. Purcell O’Gorman sent out notices for the Aggregate Meeting on 14 July. It was agreed however, as the purpose of the rival aggregate meetings was now identical to hold a single meeting on 19 July. (Matters became confused over a side issue resulting from disturbances at the Orange celebrations on 12 July. In this case O’Connell supported the Orange Lord Mayor of Dublin, while Sheil wanted him officially reprimanded. One can make what one likes of O’Connell’s tactics on this issue.) In the event the Aggregate Meeting was held in the Metropolitan Chapel, Marlborough Street on the 19 July with Lord Fingall in the chair and the meeting passed harmoniously. (Presumably, this was the new church Troy and Murray had commenced in 1815 as their new cathedral, the main body of which was now almost complete. It replaced the Metropolitan chapel, Liffey Street, where Daniel Murray had been a curate.) However, with goodwill on all sides difficulties were smoothed over. Sheil withdrew his proposed motion of censure of the Lord Mayor. The latter extended an invitation to the Catholic leaders to participate in the welcome to the king. O’Connell and Sheil were invited to join the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House Committee to make preparations.

            [August, September 1821] The king arrived on the 12 August 1821, being the first king to visit Ireland other than at the head of an army. George was very fond of the Irish, and the young men he associated with in his youth were Irish. He was still a particular friend of the Marquis and Marchioness of Conyngham of Slane Castle, co. Meath. The Irish responded enthusiastically to his visit. As peers of the realm, the Catholic nobility played their full part in welcoming the king. Ever a devoted monarchist O’Connell threw himself enthusiastically into the preparations and into the welcoming ceremonies. The occasion suited him for he loved dressing up in uniforms. The Earl of Fingall presented him to the king. He presented a laurel wreath to the king at Dunleary, and Lord Sidmouth publicly announced his name. The Lord Mayor recognised his position as the leading Catholic barrister and the Lord Mayor of Dublin invited him to places on the various committees connected with the royal visit. Sheil’s lowly status at the bar meant that he was not invited. Lord Castlereagh greeted Archbishop Troy and told him he had not changed in twenty years. When they had last met Castlereagh had been a very junior Irish Secretary. He had succeeded his father as Marquis of Londonderry, but continued to sit in the House of Commons as Lord Castlereagh. The Irish Catholic bishops in their robes were presented to the king. At the public levee, the nobility and Protestant Church dignitaries came first, followed by the aldermen of Dublin, and the two hereditary knights, the Knight of Kerry and the Knight if Glyn. Then followed the ‘titular archbishops’ Troy and Murray, followed by the French and Hanoverian consuls. It is not obvious why they were allocated that grade, but presumably it had some connection with the grades assigned to foreign and ‘colonial’ (American) clergymen. (The Irish bishops retained this status at levees until the 1840s when they were upgraded to a status immediately after clergymen of the Established Church, and they were legally recognised.)

            The Earl of Donoughmore was made a peer of the United Kingdom. (All English peers and all peers of the United Kingdom sat of right in the House of Lords. The members of the Irish peerage had to select representative members. William Wellesley-Pole was made Baron Maryborough in the peerage of the United Kingdom. (He later succeeded his elder brother, the Marquis Wellesley as 3rd Earl of Mornington in the Irish peerage.) John Foster finally accepted a peerage, and was made a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Oriel of Ferrard. He gave up his seat as MP for Louth which he had represented for sixty years. The Foster nominee for the vacant seat in Louth was returned unopposed.

            There was only a single minor incident that marred the harmony of the occasion. A Dublin alderman called Darley at a dinner proposed the traditional toast to the ‘Immortal Memory of King William’. This had been originally a tribute to the king who was regarded as safeguarding liberty in England, but in recent years had become a favourite toast of those who opposed Emancipation. When the matter was brought to the king’s notice he expressed his displeasure. It was explained that this was no a deliberate insult to Catholics, but the unthinking toast of one who had drunk too much. There the matter was allowed to rest. An appeal for a national monument to commemorate the king’s visit was launched by the Duke of Leinster, the Earl of Fingall, Archbishop Troy, and O’Connell amongst others. O’Connell and Murray were on the committee set up to collect subscriptions. O’Connell hoped to be able to construct a royal palace in Ireland so that the king could come more frequently. Eventually, only £13,000 was subscribed and it was decided that a ‘useful’ memorial would be more appropriate. A new iron bridge, to be called the King’s Bridge, would be built over the Liffey in Dublin. (It survived about 170 years before it was demolished.) The poor response after the enthusiastic welcome is surprising, for Dublin at various times erected splendid monuments to Nelson (who had not connection with Ireland, to Wellington, and to O’Connell himself. One suspects that the prominent role claimed by O’Connell antagonised most of the Protestant Tories who owned most of the wealth of Dublin.

            The visit of the king was a unique event in Irish history. Never before and never afterwards did Irishmen of all sections of the community put aside ancient animosities and work together for a common purpose. Had that spirit continued the history of Ireland would have been very different. But when the next royal visit occurred twenty eight years later the old hatreds and animosities had been resurrected, and some of the Catholic bishops refused to attend.

            The developments that brought about the modern world were coming thick and fast. Far away on the island of St. Helena Napoleon pre-maturely died. It was observed that the battles of Waterloo and Trafalgar could have taken place any time in the preceding three centuries. Between 1810 and 1820 high-pressure steam had been successfully applied to land and sea transport. The king, when he came to Ireland, crossed in a ‘steam packet’. It had also in the same decade been harnessed to the printing press. Again in the same decade the improved techniques of road construction pioneered by MacAdam (whose name survives in tarmacadam and tarmac) was adopted. Streets in towns began to be illuminated by gas. The Holyhead Road from Holyhead to London, the first attempt at long-distance road planning and building in Britain since Roman times commenced. The suspension bridge suspended from iron chains was devised to carry it over the Menai Straits. The German engineering firm Krupp opened a factory in Essen in the Ruhr district in Germany. Ambulances for transporting the sick were devised by Baron Larrey in the French army. The Davy safety lamp for miners was devised. More and more steam engines were coming into use in factories, bringing about the growth of great manufacturing towns. The principles of electricity were being studied resulting a decade late in its first practical use in the electric telegraph. The Institution of Civil Engineers was established, engineering works previously having been largely in military hands. The ideas loosed during the French Revolution could not be suppressed by military means. Democratic representation became an urgent issue. There was a great flourishing of the Romantic Movement in England, with Walter Scott, Byron, Shelley, Keats, de Quincey, Leigh Hunt, and Hazlett, who were to influence the whole of the following century, all publishing works. Constable was the great painter in England. The Romantic Movement stressed the emotions and liberty, in reaction to the rationalism and order of the Enlightenment. These were the developments in a single decade, though of course it was to be many years before they were generally adopted. The great advances of the nineteenth century had begun.

            [December 1821] Peel again accepted office as Home Secretary. At the end of the year, the Marquis Wellesley replaced Lord Talbot as Lord Lieutenant. Wellesley was Irish, and was also pro-Catholic, and was the first Irishman to be appointed Lord Lieutenant for over a hundred years. To maintain the ‘balancing principle’ the pro-Catholic Grant was replaced by the anti-Catholic Henry Goulburn as Irish Secretary. Anti-Catholic in this context merely means that he would oppose Emancipation in Parliament. He had played a prominent part in opposing Plunket’s Bill the previous year, so his appointment did not particularly please the Catholics. He was otherwise a competent reformer in the mould of Peel and dealt with the reform of the police, legislation dealing with tithes and vestry cesses, and so on (Keenan III). Plunket was made attorney general in Ireland. Wellesley chose William Magee, bishop of Raphoe, who had a reputation of being a liberal reformer as Archbishop of Dublin. But if he had hoped for assistance from him to assist the Catholics as is probable he was disappointed. [Top]

The Marquis Wellesley as Lord Lieutenant (January 1822 to April 1823)


            [January 1822] Wellesley immediately appointed a friend of his, Anthony Richard Blake an Irish barrister to his former post of Chief Remembrancer of the Court of Exchequer. This post was formerly a sinecure, and dealt with monies paid into and out of the Exchequer Court which dealt with money payable to the crown. Wellesley had to give up the office or sinecure when he accepted the position of Lord Lieutenant. Blake was therefore the first Catholic to be appointed to public office in Ireland since the departure of James II in 1690.Wellesley offered a judgeship coupled with a peerage to Saurin on his removal from the office of attorney general to make way for Plunket, but he refused it. As in the time of Earl Fitzwilliam, the die-hard members of the anti-Catholic faction simply could not bring themselves to accept Protestants of more liberal views. Saurin was a typical example of the unbending ‘Protestant Ascendancy’ type of Protestant who were to exclude themselves from office until after the death of the detested Peel, ‘the great betrayer’ in 1850. Lord Manners, the Lord Chancellor, and William Gregory, the Under-Secretary were left in place for the moment, and still had several years of influence until Peel finally gave way on the issue of Emancipation. Charles Kendal Bushe, the fair-minded solicitor general since 1805 was promoted to be Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, the senior judicial position on the death of Lord Downes.

            As often happens, a person who feels himself unjustly removed from office writes accounts of events for publication in the newspapers. Edward Hay proceeded to do this, and his letters are a very valuable source of information. Both Archbishop Murray and Dr Doyle accused him of speculating regarding the motives and actions of the bishops. Doyle accused him of building conjectures on the word of a deceased person Dr Dromgoole. He went further and said that one bishop had himself submitted a scheme for Domestic Nomination by dean and chapter, but he himself considered that there should be some input also from the bishops. In this matter one has more sympathy with Hay than with the bishops. Whatever the bishops were hoping to achieve they were very reluctant to share it with the laity, even with the Earl of Fingall. Hay had therefore to speculate from what scraps of information he could gather. Troy and Murray could easily have at an earlier date disclosed that the bishops wanted some input into the process if that was all they were seeking. It may be that the signals they received from Rome were that the Congregation was considering the claimed right of the parish priests to succeed the dean and chapters very seriously. But as the century went on, the bishops acted in an increasingly autocratic manner, never consulting anybody if they could possibly avoid it. And the simplified structure of the diocese both in the British Empire and America where there were no alternative bases of power gave to the diocesan bishop almost unlimited discretion.

            In January 1822 Wellesley held his first levee (an afternoon reception in which the king or viceroy receives only men). Among those who attended were Archbishops Murray and Troy, and Dr Doyle. For the rest of his life Archbishop Murray never failed in this act of courtesy no matter who was Lord Lieutenant. Addresses were presented from the Catholic bishops and the Catholic laity, an Aggregate Meeting having been held under Lord Fingall to adopt it.

            O’Connell, in a Letter to the People of Ireland proposed his own scheme for Domestic Nomination by dean and chapter, who would however report the names of their choices to the Government. The Post commented that this scheme pleased neither party.

             [February 1822] Parliament resumed sitting on 5 February 1822. An Aggregate Meeting was held in Denmark Street chapel on 13 February 1822 with Sir Thomas Esmonde in the chair. Purcell O’Gorman was confirmed as Secretary of the Irish Catholics. O’Gorman remained secure in his position until 1829, after which he accepted offices under the crown and did not follow O’Connell into politics. A motion to petition Parliament was adopted. O’Connell embarked on a long meandering speech and had to be recalled to the subject under discussion. But he continued,

‘I have however been traduced, and that at least by one honest man, I mean Mr Lawless of Belfast. Mr Lawless says that I am looking for a silk gown’… (DEP 14 Feb 1822).

The name Honest Jack Lawless stuck. He was the son of a Dublin brewer, who studied for the bar, but was never called to the bar because of his friendship with the United Irish leaders in their democratic phase. He was at this period editing a newspaper in Belfast. His great interest was parliamentary reform and the spread of democracy. His view that lawful debts should be paid was considered by some as a bit eccentric.

            At this point there was a widespread outbreak of agrarian crime and terrorism in Catholic areas that many Protestants considered an attack on themselves. There was a similar outbreak of violence among the unions of tradesmen. The Government had to take various measures to deal with them.

            [April 1822] Canning decided to bring in a minor Bill called the Catholic Peers Bill to enable Catholic peers to take their seats in Parliament. This was to repeal the Act of 30 Charles II that prevented Catholic peers taking their seats in the Lords. Its aim at the time was to exclude Charles’ Catholic brother, James Duke of York and Albany (after whom New York and Albany are named), later James II. Canning’s motion passed the Commons but was predictably rejected in the Lords where the Lord Chancellor stated that if they allowed peers to sit, they could not reasonably exclude them from the Commons. This was of course to point of Canning’s Bill, Peel describing it as the thin edge of the wedge. Because of this Bill, Plunket did not bring in a bill of his own. Canning had accepted the post of Governor General of India following the resignation of Earl Moira who actually did not return home until January 1823.

            The Irish Government under Wellesley and Goulburn had not only to deal with agrarian crime, but a widespread famine in the south of Ireland. Besides renewing the Insurrection Act (1822), a Police Bill was passed to provide a more effect police force, measures were taken to relieve distress, a tithe Bill was introduced, and stipendiary magistrates were appointed in places where it was felt that local magistrates were not trusted. The chief issue at the time however concerned education, and whether Catholic children were proselytised in Government-supported schools.

            [August 1822] The whole political scene was changed in August when Lord Castlereagh committed suicide. He had been visited by Wellington who found him very depressed and his physician advised his manservant to remove every knife from his reach. But the servant failed to find one, and Castlereagh was found with his throat cut. And so died one of the most attractive figures in Irish history. He attracted much opprobrium in his lifetime from the Romantic poets for no very obvious reason, and after his death from Irish nationalists for his role in getting the Act of Union passed. Canning was appointed Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House, getting the ‘whole inheritance’.

            [November 1822] Several Ribbonmen, as the Catholic agrarian terrorists were called, were put on trial. A calf’s head was placed by some Protestants on a Catholic altar in Ardee in co. Louth, and some tradesmen with Orange sympathies threw a bottle at Wellesley during a visit to the theatre. Though these were isolated incidents many saw them as proof of an Orange plot. Plunket, the attorney general, despite great efforts failed to get convictions, and many too saw this as further evidence of an Orange plot. But neither then nor now was there evidence for more than breaches of the peace. Plunket admitted that most Orangemen deplored the incident. The Catholic bishops, and especially Dr Doyle, denounced the agrarian crimes. Until his death twelve years later Doyle strove energetically against the nocturnal outrages. He strongly denied that they had any religious grounds for their actions, and he excommunicated all those who belonged to the secret societies. (Doyle wrote various public works, which he signed J.K.L. which puzzled most people. It was finally disclosed to be James of Kildare and Leighlin.)

            Archbishop Magee offended both Catholics and Presbyterians by his famous antithesis that the Dissenters had a religion without a Church and the Catholics a Church without a religion, the conclusion of course being that the Church of Ireland had both. Though harmless enough in itself if ignored there were those on both sides who were determined not to ignore it. The self-appointed Catholic champion was the Rev. Richard Hayes while on the Protestant side was the Rev. Sir Harcourt Lees. Conway roused the wrath of Fr Hayes by suppressing part of a paid advertisement. Conway replied that he only suppressed a passage that might be considered libellous. As printer and publisher he would have been equally liable to damages.

‘and we further tell this mischievous fool that his conduct is marked, and that his ecclesiastical superiors are at this moment taking steps to extinguish the discord which he is exciting, and to abate the nuisance of his writings so long offensive to the public nostrils. Between the Rev. Sir Harcourt Lees and the Rev. Richard Hayes it would be difficult to discover any difference. The tendency, if not the object of the writings of both is the same, Civil War and Blood’ (DEP 5, 12 Dec 1822).

Conway went on to observe that at the height of the controversy over the veto when many harsh words were said on either side, no word of religious polemic or controversy was uttered. But now these two clerics were introducing it. He went on to tell Fr Hayes, that despite the latter’s lying nonsense he was in no way hostile to the Catholic people and Catholic priests.

            The introduction of religious controversy was a sign of the times. Like the other Churches in Northern Europe, the Established Churches in the United Kingdom were beginning to cast off the torpor of the eighteenth century. Attacks on the errors of Rome were again in favour, and proselytising attempts to rescue Catholics from their so-called idolatry. The Catholic Churches were also growing in numbers, and wealth and confidence, and some of the more hot-headed priests joined enthusiastically in a polemical fury not seen since the seventeenth century. Archbishop Magee personally favoured efforts to convert Catholics. But later on, the Government realised the overt proselytism was liable to lead to breaches of the peace and discouraged it.

            An incident occurred when a Catholic printer innocently re-produced a standard Catholic New Testament, but with footnotes of an earlier age of a nature very harsh and offensive to Protestants. This was immediately denounced by Troy, as being among other things ‘harsh and irritating in expression’ (SNL 3 January 1823). Sometime later Archbishop Murray said that words like ‘heretic’ were not used to describe Protestants, but rather expressions like ‘separated brethren’. For the most part, at this period, the Catholic and Protestant clergy were on friendly terms with each other, a state of affairs which did not survive the so-called ‘Tithe War’ a decade later. But the Hayes affair showed how the climate was changing.

            [February 1823] The Dublin Evening Post noted that there was no Irish Catholic petition that year, but it was expected that Plunket would bring in a motion in any case. Saunders Newsletter said that the motion was virtually a Government one, and would pass the Commons without difficulty.



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