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Chapter Eleven

[Ireland 1800-1850 Copyright © 2001 by Desmond Keenan. Book available from and]

The Whigs and the Reform Bill

(December 1830 to November 1832)

Summary. This was the era of reform. Catholics could now be elected to a reformed Parliament and be appointed to public office. But the expectations of the lower class Catholics which had been elevated during the campaign for Emancipation were not realised. They had assumed that all jobs on the public payroll would go to them. Daniel O'Connell played on these feelings of disappointment claiming that they would only be realised in a Catholic-dominated Irish Parliament. Agrarian crime and resistance to tithe-paying fused with each other, and a Coercion Act had to be passed. The attempt to find a means of public funding primary education resulted in an Education Act. The great topic of the hour was, however Parliamentary Reform.


The Return of the Whigs

Reaction to the Emancipation Act

The ‘Tithe War’

Parliamentary Reform Introduced

Melbourne’s Administration

The National Board of Education

Ireland under Anglesey and Stanley


The Return of the Whigs        

[December 1830] Wellington's ministry seemed to have coped with the three problems, which faced it in 1828, the price of corn, currency, and banking, and the Catholic problem. But in fact several long-standing grievances now grabbed the attention of the public. After the excitement caused by the successful revolt of the Catholic Belgians the previous year came news of an attempted revolt of the Catholic Poles against the Russians. They declared their independence in January 1831 but their revolt was puts down by the Russians during the summer. The British Government had supported the Belgians and guaranteed the independence of the new state. This guarantee was the reason given by Britain for going to war in 1914. At this point none of the European powers assisted the Poles, but their struggle was widely reported in British and Irish newspapers. The Poles were unsuccessful and remained under Russian control until 1919. The excitement and alarm after dying down briefly flared up more violently. There was no great shift in public opinion towards the Whigs. The Government had lost the support of the ultra-Tories and the anti-popery faction as well as that of Huskisson's followers. The death of Huskisson on the opening day of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway left the way open for an alliance between these and the more conservative Whigs under Lord Grey. Sir Henry Parnell was chosen to put what amounted to a vote of no confidence in Wellington’s ministry, which then fell. 

            Earl Grey (formerly Lord Howick), in the last days of November 1830, put together a very aristocratic ministry with all the main offices going to peers, or the sons or close relatives of peers. Lord Melbourne became Home Secretary, the Marquis of Anglesey Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Hon. Edward Stanley, grandson of the Earl of Derby, Irish Secretary, Lord Duncannon, son of the Earl of Bessborough, Secretary for Woods and Forests, and the Marquis Wellesley Lord Steward of the Household. Thomas Spring Rice became Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Althorpe. Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston in the Irish peerage became Foreign Secretary. Palmerston had extensive estates in the west of Ireland, on which he spent vast sums for improvements. Anglesey too had extensive estates in Ireland. Melbourne’s in-laws, the Ponsonby’s (Duncannon, Bessborough) were Irish. Grey himself was married to another Ponsonby. Sir Henry Parnell was made Secretary at War but was shortly afterwards dismissed for failing to support the cabinet. He did not make himself popular by telling the cabinet that he was the only one to understand the Irish question, and by urging them to conciliate O’Connell. He may have been right.

            Lord Plunket resigned from the office of Chief Justice of Common Pleas to become Irish Lord Chancellor. It seems that Lord John Russell advised giving the vacant Chief Justiceship to O'Connell, but it was given to John Doherty, the Solicitor General, who had just signally defeated O'Connell in Parliament (Fitzpatrick). Doherty was a personal friend of Anglesey, but O'Connell regarded the appointment as a mortal insult. (Whether O’Connell was suited to the bench, given his lack of knowledge of the law, and the fact that he would be excluded from politics, is another matter.) The Attorney General under Wellington and Wellesley, Henry Joy, was promoted to the Bench as Chief Baron of the Exchequer where a vacancy had also occurred. The Under-Secretary, William Gregory, whom Anglesey disliked, was removed from office (11 Dec 1830), and replaced by Captain Gosset. Apparently, the position of Third Serjeant in the Courts was offered to O'Connell but he spurned the offer. The position was then given to Michael O'Loughlen, O’Connell’s junior, it being the next step after being made KC. The appointment was significant inasmuch that serjeants could be given Commissions of Assize and Nisi prius and so act as judges in the crown courts. Nevertheless they could still be elected to Parliament.  O'Loghlen was the first Catholic appointed a judge for centuries. Woulfe was made Crown Counsel for Munster. Another leading Catholic barrister, Purcell O’Gorman, O’Connell’s contemporary in the courts, was appointed to an official position in the Court of Chancery and later an Assistant barrister. Sir Patrick Bellew was made High Sheriff of co. Louth

            Not many offices had been offered immediately to Catholics, but this was not because of any prejudice against them. Anglesey's appointments policy reflected his first pre-occupation: to calm the fears of the Protestant ultra-Tories. The Catholics had got the Relief Act they had been demanding so insistently and so were thought to be satisfied for the moment. In making appointments both in Church and State Earl Grey and Anglesey tried to pick for promotion Protestants from as wide a spectrum as possible. Next, the Irish Whigs had to consider the claims of their own long-term supporters, and they had been waiting a very long time. Thirdly, there were very few Catholics actually qualified, whether by property or professionally, for public office. Sheil's income from the bar was very small until he was made a KC. Catholic barristers had to start at the bottom and not be automatically promoted to the top because of their religion. Appointing them Assistant Barristers in counties or Crown Counsel made a start. The Catholic peers could be made High Sheriffs in turn or Lords Lieutenant of counties, and such appointments were made. Some too could be given peerages of the United Kingdom to enable them to sit in the House of Lords. O'Connell was likely to regard such promotions of rivals as personal insults, for he never forgot an injury, real or imagined, and the Veto Controversy was only fifteen years away. [Top] 

Reaction to the Emancipation Act           

The Government however seriously miscalculated the Catholic expectations in 1830, especially in Munster. Others might have seen the campaign for Emancipation as a minor issue regarding whether a handful of wealthy Catholic gentlemen, not numbering more than a hundred at most, could be MPs or generals in the army. But that was not the way it had been presented in the campaign for Emancipation. As a writer in the Carlow Morning Post put it: ‘Everything national, past, present, and to come, was summed up in this most absorbing event – religion, politics, clergy, laity, penal laws, persecutions, our lives and fortunes, nay everything which we held most dear – civil and religious freedom; in short the abridged history of poor Ireland’s past wrongs, and all the fondest hopes for the future were all gathered together’ (13 Sept. 1832). Catholics were led to believe that they could get jobs back wholesale from the Protestants, though people like Lawless and Wyse deplored this nakedly sectarian presentation. At a meeting of the Catholic Committee in 1811, O'Connell estimated that there were 31,096 jobs in Ireland, including in the armed forces, from which Catholics were excluded by statute or lack of public patronage. Typical of such jobs were junior positions like turnkey in a county gaol or tidewaiter in the Revenue Service. With an Irish Catholic Lord Chancellor, Irish Secretary, Post Master General, and so on, in theory all jobs could go to Catholics, at least in Munster and Connaught.

This idea, that Catholics would take all the jobs, was a great attraction of Repeal, and later in the century of Home Rule. But this might have mattered little at the time if O'Connell had not felt himself personally belittled. As a result, Irish politics for the next ninety years were to be wracked by the issue that did not end until the Catholics triumphed over the Protestants. One can only speculate what would have happened if the Government had given some position to O’Connell that had the patronage of several hundred minor positions attached. These he could have dispensed to his worthless followers who had followed him precisely in order to get some such official positions. This would probably have been done without comment fifty years earlier, but that kind of customary abuse was passing away.

            After the appointments were announced O'Connell had a long discussion with Anglesey, and the latter noted that he was full of bitterness, and was about to go to Ireland to stir up what mischief he could. The Duke of Leinster, the previous autumn, with his ‘Leinster Declaration’ in favour of the Union had handed him the issue of Repeal, and the Trades’ Political Union was strongly advocating it. 

            [1831] Parliament was recessed on the 24 December 1830 and did not re-assemble until 3 February 1831. On the 20 December, the Corporation of Dublin met to express their condolences to William Gregory on his removal from office, and it became clear that neither the Corporation nor the trade guilds of merchants would welcome Anglesey with the usual procession on his arrival on 22 December 1830. When he arrived, he was greeted warmly by his own supporters despite the sulking of the Orangemen and the Trades’ Union.

            On the day before O'Connell’s arrival the (Catholic) Trades’ Union met to organise a welcome for him with a procession carrying the banners of the different trades. O'Connell's late arrival on 19 December rather spoiled the event so the Trades decided to hold another proper one. The Government could not suppress Orange processions and tolerate manifestly Catholic processions, so this was banned (25 Dec. 1830), again insulting O’Connell. The Non-Subscribing Presbyterians in the Synod of Munster, the Presbytery of Antrim, and the Remonstrant Synod presented an address of welcome to him. Archbishop Murray, Archbishop Laffan of Cashel, and Dr Kelly, the co-adjutor of Armagh attended the first levee at the end of January.

            The cabinet was rather taken aback by the turn of events in Dublin. Sir Henry Parnell had not at first accepted office under Grey, but when Doherty's appointment as Chief Justice of Common Pleas was announced he went to Anglesey, Melbourne, and Palmerston, in turn to beg them to conciliate O'Connell. The cabinet asked him what he would advise, and he suggested among other things, the removal of Anglesey and Plunket. Only the removal from Ireland of those who had bested him would have placated O’Connell. The Earl of Darnley then wrote to Dr Doyle to ask his advice, and he replied in much the same fashion as Parnell. He thought that 'some special fatality attended the present ministry'. Parliament had resisted Catholic claims until the people felt that their rights had been extorted by force. Then the Government persecuted the man they should above all have conciliated. Next, few practical advantages from the Relief Act had come to the Catholics so that they considered that Act a dead letter. The Government should speedily bring in measures to make the Relief Act effective (Fitzpatrick).

            Doyle's letter was shown to the cabinet and Darnley wrote to him again to ask what specific measures he had in mind. Parnell too wrote to Doyle recounting his attempts to save something from disaster. Doyle replied to Darnley on 10 January 1831. He noted that the people were still faithful in their allegiance [to the crown] but agitated to an unprecedented degree. O'Connell, in a recent speech, had gone so far as to claim to be sent by God. But he thought the Government would do better to ignore him. He did not think the unfortunate law appointments could be cancelled now, but a substantial Poor Law was urgently required to alleviate the widespread distress. In a second letter, he expressed an opinion that the excess revenue of the Established Church could be used for the public benefit, and he commended Sir Henry Parnell highly. He warned the Government against calling out the yeomanry in cases of disturbance. It is not obvious why Doyle was concerned with the possible use of the yeomanry. Such units as still had not disbanded were composed largely of those with Orange sympathies, and the Government did not intend to employ them. It would be like putting a match to a powder keg (Fitzpatrick).

            Anglesey would have been better advised to leave O'Connell alone, for by attacking him the Irish Government harmed itself in two ways. For he, at that moment (December 1830 and January 1831) was more concerned with the beginning of the resistance to the payment of tithes in Kilkenny, and the possibility that the agrarian secret societies would manipulate the movement to their own advantage. He recommended the Trades Political Union to obey the law, wrote two public letters to the people of Kilkenny urging them to avoid large intimidatory anti-tithe meetings, and a third letter to the artisans and others of the operative classes to warn them against joining the Ribbonmen. These letters were written between the 3rd and 8th January 1831. He then formed his own General Association of Ireland on 6th January to work for the remedying of grievances especially through Repeal.

            The Irish Government was composed almost entirely of the moderate Tory wing of the coalition, and it promptly suppressed the General Association on 7 January 1831, and all societies under whatever name he might call them on 13 January. O’Connell, as usual considered he was being helpful and the Government considering that he was doing nothing but harm. But the Government was right on one point; anything O’Connell did would stir up trouble among the Orangemen. Whigs, like Russell and Duncannon, had been hoping to get the services of O'Connell for their campaign for Parliamentary Reform, but he and the Irish Government were embarked on a contest from which neither could easily back down. O'Connell was arrested along with others on 18 January 1831 and charged on 31 counts, the first 14 of which were charges of violating the Suppression Act of 10 George IV (1829). The object of every defence lawyer was to prolong the defence, and this O'Connell proceeded to do. It was often alleged that the cabinet concurred in this procrastination to allow the Act to lapse, which it eventually did. The Suppressions of Dangerous Societies Act (1829) unexpectedly reached the end of a second Parliament when the king dissolved it on 23 April, and expired. Stanley noted that O’Connell had pleaded guilty to fourteen of the charges against him and so the Government had secured a conviction of a misdemeanour. To pursue the matter further would have looked like political persecution.

O’Connell’s decision to keep the Catholic Rent under his own control was paying off for him. According to the Pilot, what was now called the ‘O’Connell Tribute’ brought in £24,000 in the first three months of 1831. In the meantime O’Connell continued organising meetings for the sole purpose of petitioning Parliament for Repeal not Reform. This was only mischief-making, for there is no evidence the O’Connell ever believed, except perhaps for a brief period in 1843, that Repeal would ever be achieved. Reform was the urgent question of the hour, and one in which he could have made himself very useful to the Whigs. Those who attended Repeal meetings invariably smeared those who refused to join them, accusing them of being in the pay of the Government, or seeking favours of the Government. Almost none of the major figures in the Catholic Association, or those Protestants who had supported Emancipation, joined him.  One source remarked that most of his support came from the Political Trades’ Union, and this was doubtless true in Dublin. But in Munster especially there was no shortage of people prepared to jump on a political bandwagon. Marcus Costello, like Jack Lawless before him, at the end of January 1831, undertook a campaign in Ulster to gain the support of the working classes for Repeal, but he was stoned out of various towns by the local Orangemen. [Top] 

The ‘Tithe War’           

In the meantime the anti-tithe agitation, which was alluded to earlier had broken out. It had been assumed that the tithe question was being solved as more and more parishes adopted composition and commutation voluntarily. But now there was a widespread demand for their entire abolition, and the clergymen of the Established Church were in no mood to consider any further diminution of their legal rights. The first dispute occurred in a parish in which commutation and composition was in force, and there are conflicting accounts as to why exactly the dispute occurred. A young curate, a supporter of the Second Reformation, came to the parish, and got into dispute with the parishioners with regard to the amount compounded for. The Catholic parishioners then refused to pay any tithes, and as feelings rose high large crowds assembled, often carrying 'hurley sticks' as a pretence that they were assembling for a game of hurling. (Evidence of Dr. Doyle, in DEP 10 April 1832). O'Connell, as mentioned above, became alarmed and wrote to the people of Kilkenny urging them to agitate peacefully within the law. A graphic account is given of the events in co. Limerick by T.P. Lefanu, whose father was rector of Abington in that county, where the respect of the people for the Protestant clergy turned to hatred almost overnight.     

At the same time, there was a widespread outbreak of agrarian crime in many parts of Leinster and Munster and, as O Connell foresaw, it became indistinguishable from legitimate anti-tithe protests. The whole bloody campaign with its intertwined strands became known as the 'Tithe War'. Indeed it was impossible to say which were the activities of the anti-tithe protestors and which of the agrarian terrorist organisations. No doubt many people involved belonged to both organisations. The cordial relations between Catholics and Protestants became soured overnight. In some places, Protestants were shot on sight. Four Protestant clergymen were murdered. Protestant emigration from Ireland soared. The Catholic priests proved singularly unhelpful to their Protestant brethren even when their lives and those of their families were threatened (le Fanu).

Attacks on the police continued, sometimes in connection with tithe-collecting; sometimes not. In Castlepollard, in Westmeath, in May 1831, a group of policemen tried to make an arrest on a fair day, and were attacked. The police opened fire and several people were killed. An episode connected with tithe-collection occurred in Newtown Barry, in Wexford, in June 1831, where a crowd attacked the police, who opened fire. On 25 November 1831 there was an attack on a body of police escorting prisoners at Castlecomer. Doyle issued a strongly-worded pastoral against the secret societies, the ‘Whitefeet’ and ‘Blackfeet’ in his diocese after the attack. He recognised that the people in his diocese had great grievances, but the people in these societies were not those with the greatest grievances. The members of the societies, he said, were old offenders, thieves, liars, drunkards, fornicators, quarrellers, blasphemers, men who have abandoned all duties of religion, and also lots of giddy young men (DEP 1 Dec 1831; he would have received this information from the local clergy.) Thirteen constables were killed in an attack at Carrickshock near Knocktopher in December 1831 in an affair in connection with tithe collection. The local paper, the Kilkenny Moderator, explained the deaths of the policemen, saying that they failed to fire with live ammunition soon enough. As was usual, conflicting versions circulated as to what had happened and who had fired first. One plausible version was that the crowd had charged believing that the police muskets were loaded only with blanks. The police would have to fire these off and would not have time to reload. (That many in the attacking crowd were half-mad with adulterated alcohol is very likely. Substances like methylated spirits and mercuric chloride - a timber preservative - could be added to whiskey to hasten and enhance its effects.) In these cases the police were put on trial and acquitted.

            The newspapers that gave accounts of these events were clearly divided on sectarian lines. A paper which reported a 'police massacre' was obviously Catholic and inclined towards Repeal. A paper that denounced ‘atrocities’ belonged to the ascendancy faction. The latter papers too, were more likely to report murders of policemen, while the former stress murders by policemen. By that time, the payment of tithes in Kilkenny had virtually ceased, and resistance was spreading rapidly into the neighbouring counties. (Among the leaders of the tithe-resisters in Kildare was a farmer called Cullen, married to a woman called Maher, who had a son called Paul, studying for the Church in Rome. The sectarian bitterness of the time, and hatred of the Protestant Church, were to remain with Cardinal Paul Cullen all his life. His uncle, the Rev. James Maher, became an active political priest.) At the end of 1831, the Government appointed a Select Committee to examine the question of Irish tithes.

            It was estimated that 242 murders were committed during the period of the 'Tithe War' as well as over a thousand robberies to steal arms. Since the previous century, the abolition of tithes had been one of the proclaimed objectives of the secret societies. The counties chiefly affected were Queen’s County, Carlow, Kilkenny, and Tipperary, but disturbances were not confined to these areas. These counties, along with Limerick and Clare usually figured in lists of proscribed districts.) O'Connell and Doyle, in different ways, tried to reduce the influence of the secret societies. O'Connell pinned his hope on winning the people to peaceful agitation for Repeal. Doyle tried to persuade the Government to do something quickly, and told the people that it was legitimate to resist 'passively' to demands for tithes, or even by such methods as hiding their cattle. Dr. MacMahon, the Catholic bishop of Killaloe, whose diocese spread over parts of Clare and Tipperary, issued a strongly-worded pastoral letter against secret societies. He explained that the Church forbade such societies and any member could not receive absolution even on his deathbed unless he renounced the evil society. He warned them that the penalty even for membership was transportation or even death. He warned them too that Government spies and informers abounded, and that they can swear anything in court without fear of contradiction. (The reason for this was that obviously anyone who contradicted them would have to have been present and so would incriminate themselves DEP 14 April 1831.) 

            Anglesey put forward a plan to use Church property, which Conway of the Post, citing Lord Cloncurry, judged could have worked if enacted promptly in 1831 (DEP 5 May 1840). There was a problem. Anglesey and Stanley, the Irish Secretary, were not on speaking terms with each other, and each was making proposals separately to the cabinet. Anglesey wished to use some of those revenues of the Irish Church which were clearly superfluous for public purposes, but Stanley disagreed. The cabinet did what cabinets do; it set up a Parliamentary Committee to make recommendations. Doyle was called as one of the principal witnesses. The result eventually was Stanley’s Irish Church Temporalities Act (1833) which satisfied nobody. [Top] 

Parliamentary Reform Introduced           

Parliament returned from its recess on 3rd February 1831. The Whigs, led by Earl Grey, determined to tackle the question of the parliamentary reform first. They unsure how much support they had in the Commons for this measure. A seat was found for Sheil in a pocket borough belonging to the Earl of Anglesey, and Lord Duncannon was told to try to patch up matters with O'Connell. The latter pledged his support. Grey secured an arrest of judgement against O’Connell until May after Stanley refused to withdraw the action. The Bill became known to history as the 'Great Reform Bill' and Lord John Russell introduced it into the Commons on 1 March 1831.  As Irish representation had been largely reformed at the time of the Act of Union a different reform bill was introduced for Ireland. This issue was to dominate all others in the country for the next year and a half. The Bill passed its Second Reading by a single vote, 51 Irish MP's being in favour and 36 voting against. Grey persuaded the king to hold a General Election (Brock) before proceeding any further.  The King attended Parliament on 22 April 1831 to dissolve the one-year old Parliament, having been assured that Ireland was sufficiently quiet, and writs were issued for another General Election. In the event there were no major atrocities during the election in May, though the massacres at Castlepollard and Newtown Barry occurred soon afterwards, and Special Commissions had to be sent to Limerick, Clare, and Galway in June. In July, Stanley was to introduce a very severe Arms Bill.

There was some jockeying for positions in Irish constituencies during the General Election in May 1831 but not as much as before, as there was a general wish among the Irish Whigs to get the Bill passed, and the agitation for Repeal was suspended. In Louth, Sir Patrick Bellew stood down in favour of Sheil, who was then returned along with Alexander Dawson. The latter died almost immediately and Bellew was elected. Lord Killeen was returned in Meath and Henry Grattan, Junior was defeated. (Conway, who had known the older Grattan thought that his son lacked ability and principles and was prepared to pledge almost anything to get himself elected. He was thus useful to O'Connell.)  As in Louth, a by-election soon occurred and Grattan was returned. No place was ever found by anybody for the one genuine democrat, Jack Lawless. But Lawless was a Radical Reformer, and so was excluded from Grey's Whig-Tory coalition. O'Connell stood in Kerry where he was returned along with the son of a Whig peer, the Hon. Frederick Mullins (Baron Ventry). The long-time supporter of the Catholics, the Knight of Kerry, along with the Hon. William Browne, was defeated. At O'Connell's request, Lord Duncannon was unopposed. Thomas Wyse was elected in Tipperary, and Sir John Burke in Galway.  

            The country returned a large majority in favour of reform. This Parliament sat from 14 June 1831 until 16 August 1832, convening on 140 days. The Freeman’s Journal estimated that 62 Irish members were pro-reform and 32 declared against (20 May 1831). When opening Parliament the king noted that cholera was widespread in the Baltic states, and steps were being taken to prevent it entering the United Kingdom. However by November it had reached England.  

            By the time Parliament re-assembled on the 14 June 1831 after the election, the Whig legislative programme was ready. The re-introduction of the Reform Bill took place in June but the Second Reading was delayed until the autumn. Stanley introduced an Arms Bill but this was strongly opposed by Lord Althorpe and was withdrawn. [Top]  

Melbourne’s Administration as Home Secretary 

Melbourne then introduced his Lord Lieutenant of Counties Bill. The administration of Irish counties was made more like that in England with the appointment of lords lieutenant of counties to act as the Government’s representative in the county and keep it informed about matters in the county. In particular, they were to notify the Lord Chancellor about who should be appointed magistrates. But Anglesey noted that as magistrates died with the crown there was no need to remove existing magistrates even though the last Lord Chancellor, Sir Anthony Hart had been unhappy about some he had appointed under the old system. Some of the powers of the former governors of counties were transferred to them, as was also the powers of the colonels of the county militias to appoint officers in their regiments. Thirty two were appointed in September.

Despite the local disturbances, the third Census was held in the summer of 1831. The population was found to have increased from 6,800.000 to 7,700,000 an increase of almost 14%. In 1831 the British and Irish Post Offices were amalgamated and this resulted in an improved service (SNL 8 June 1836). Conway noted that posts between Irish country towns were poor as the Irish Post Office had been considered chiefly as a source of Government revenue. There were four routes for mail across the Irish Sea, through Holyhead, Liverpool, Portpatrick and Milford Haven. Five Catholics were appointed sheriffs of counties. Orange parades were again banned.

Ominously, food scarcity was reported from Mayo as early as March. May and June were the ‘hungry months’ when last year’s crops were coming to an end and the new crops were not ready for harvesting. O’Connell wrote to Doyle on 29 March saying that Doyle’s pamphlet on the necessity of some state provision for the poor and convinced him and that he wished to announce publicly his change of mind. (Doyle was later to reproach him on his backsliding from his commitment; most things for O’Connell were matters for political tactics.) To finance it he suggested using either the tithes, or putting a double tax on absentee landlords. These populist proposals were beside the point, for the Duke of Leinster had at one time convincingly argued in the House of Lords that the estates of absentees like himself were usually better managed than those of resident landlords. The idea of using superfluous revenues of the Established Church for the public good was a beguiling one, and was proposed on and off by the Whigs until the end of the century. Dr MacHale wrote a pastoral letter instructing the people to apply to their landlords for relief, and then to the Government and Parliament. They should keep clear of all illegal organisations. Almost unnoticed the Mulholland brothers in Belfast opened a power-driven factory for spinning linen yarns in Belfast with 8,000 spindles. It was the beginning of the rise of Belfast, not only as the world centre of the linen industry, but as a great centre for the manufacture of machinery. Weaving by powerloom did not commence until 1850.

The Board of Inland Navigation and the Barrack Board (hitherto responsible for building barracks or other public buildings) were re-organised as the Board of Works. (The duties and powers of the boards for the Phoenix Park, Public Buildings, Public Roads and Bridges, Dunmore and Kingstown Harbours, and for Irish Fisheries were also transferred to the new Board (Dublin Mercantile Advertizer 30 July 1832). John Fox Burgoyne, of the Royal Engineers, and a veteran of the Peninsular War and siege of New Orleans, was appointed first chairman, and served in the post for fifteen years. This Board was to have responsibility for public buildings, canals, drainage, and so forth, and was to form the backbone of public relief works during the Famine. As was beginning to be the custom, qualifications or experience in such fields as engineering or surveying under civilian (civil) or military engineers were required, and adequate knowledge of accountancy or cost control. The organisation of relief works was at times given to the Board as its officers were the only people the Government could trust to spend the money and spend it properly. By the Public Works Act (1831) loans to a total value of half a million pounds repayable over twenty five years were made available.  Most of this was disbursed.  Not only during the Great Famine but also increasingly in the second half of the century the Board of Works became an essential instrument of poor relief and local development. It was to become the largest of all Government Boards, and the conduit through which most Government initiatives for improvement were channelled.

The Education Bill (1831) to set up the Board of National Education to replace the Kildare Place Society was ready in the autumn. It was to do much the same things, giving support grants, providing suitable cheap schoolbooks and school materials, training teachers, and inspecting the schools. Archbishop Magee had died shortly before so the Government was able to appoint a liberal scholar from Oxford, Dr Richard Whately, as archbishop of Dublin. He was consecrated on 23 October 1831. It was an inspired choice. Whately proved to be the most outstanding churchman in Ireland in the nineteenth century. He brought fresh air into the traditional provincial Church of Ireland and was detested for it. Though limited in many ways, having no appreciation of art, music, poetry, or the beauties of nature, he had an open mind with regard to questions of religion and science. He realised that everything written in the Bible could not be literally true, and tried to establish principles regarding what was essential to believe. He wrote a brilliant satire of Hume’s scepticism, proving on Hume’s own principles that Napoleon could not have existed. At the time of his appointment to the archbishopric of Dublin, he was the professor of political economy in Oxford University. Theologically he was anti-Erastian, meaning he did not believe that the secular power should intervene in the internal affairs of the Church. He was to modify his views when he had to enforce the Church Temporalities Act (1833). He was consecrated archbishop in one of Dublin’s two Protestant cathedrals and enthroned in the other. He shortly afterwards established a chair of political economy in Trinity College, Dublin. He quickly established a rapport with Archbishop Murray his Catholic counterpart. He had a belief that all Ireland could quickly be converted to Protestantism, merely through the enlightenment education would bring. Murray believed that it would not, and that education would strengthen religious belief. So, he was not worried if Whately tried to sneak in parts of his own beliefs into the textbooks of the National Board. 

Archbishop Daniel Murray was another remarkable figure. During his life, and after his death, he was reviled and detested by many of his co-religionists who took the part of Archbishop MacHale and Cardinal Cullen. One biographer of MacHale even doubted his eternal salvation. He was not outstanding in any particular, but presided over the enormous growth of the Catholic religion in the first half of the century with ability and good-humoured tolerance. He was the son of a farmer in county Wicklow, and studied for the Church in Salamanca, where he took the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Such degrees at that time did not imply any great learning. He was pursued by the yeomanry in 1798 and escaped to Dublin where he came directly under Archbishop Troy. Murray and Troy were figures from the eighteenth century, cultivated, urbane, and tolerant. They were of the same mould as Castlereagh and Wellington, and suffered from the same kind of abuse from their more intolerant co-religionists. He was selected by Archbishop Troy as his successor, and was consecrated as archbishop of Hierapolis in partibus infidelium in 1809 as co-adjutor to Archbishop Troy with right of succession. (Hieropolis was a long-defunct see, formerly in the eastern half of the Roman Empire, but now in the Turkish Empire. In the Catholic Church, every bishop had to be a bishop of some place.) He travelled to the Continent and to Rome several times on behalf of the bishops. (Catholic bishops were among those who found the invention of steam-ships and railways an enormous relief.) In 1823, he succeeded Troy as archbishop. He was never the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, that honour always going to the archbishop of Armagh. However, as his diocese was the largest and most important in Ireland, and closest to the seat of government, he was the usual channel of communication between the Church and the Government, which regarded him as the senior Catholic bishop in the whole United Kingdom. He always sought accommodation where this was possible, and did not make mountains out of molehills. But he could be rigorous and unbending if a principle was at stake, and could stand up even against the Holy See if he thought they were acting on wrong information. He was not a particularly learned man, and so relied on others for instruction. He knew he could not compete in secular knowledge with Whately, nor did he try. Though not outstanding in any particular way, he filled the office of archbishop of Dublin in a way none of his successors could attain. He was without doubt, the most outstanding Irish Catholic bishop in the nineteenth century. One has only to compare him with his successor, the able, but intensely narrow-minded and bigoted Cardinal Cullen, to see what rightly constitutes a Christian bishop. Top 

The National Board of Education 

Whately was made the chief commissioner on the newly established Board of National Education, in practice if not in law, recognising the right of the Established Church to supervise education. Along with him were appointed Archbishop Murray to represent the Catholic hierarchy, and the Rev. James Carlile DD to look after Presbyterian interests. The Rev. James Carlile was made the sole, salaried, Resident Commissioner. The other commissioners forming the Board were the Duke of Leinster, Anthony Blake, the Provost of Trinity College, Dublin (Dr Francis Sadleir), and Robert Holmes. The Synod of Ulster did not recognise the Board, but Carlile was not censured for accepting the post. Holmes was a very successful lawyer, having the largest practice in Ireland, but he refused all offices, not even taking silk.

 The Board itself was not to manage schools, but was to consider applications for funding from local committees in parishes.  If there was more than one application from a parish, the Board was to give preference to applications from mixed Catholic and Protestant committees. It was also to provide the inspectors, and carry out other duties that had been done by the Kildare Place Society. The aim of the Government in establishing and supporting the Board was to educate all Irish children together so that through meeting in the schools, the children of the various denominations would meet together and centuries-old prejudices and hatreds would be dissipated. The sectarian violence of the ‘Tithe War’ was at its height. The clergy fought this principle tooth-and-nail.

            Most of the Catholic bishops accepted the Government's scheme though it was less than what they wished. Dr MacHale was absent on the Continent. He had to make his ad limina visit to Rome, the visit every Catholic bishop must make to Rome. He, like Dr James Doyle, was largely a self-taught man, but had not Doyle’s range of interests. Like most self-taught persons there were gaps in his knowledge of which naturally he was unaware. He never seems to have studied political economy though this was a recognised field of knowledge since the time of Sir William Petty in the seventeenth century. Bishop George Berkeley of Cloyne had developed it in the preceding century. He was conscious that, having been educated only in Maynooth, he would have to broaden his education. Wherefore he undertook an extended tour on his way to Rome and so was absent for a considerable time. (To him and Cullen could be applied the words of Horace, Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt They who cross the sea change skies not minds.) 

  The bishops of the Established Church were almost uniformly hostile to the Board, as no special rights had been accorded to them. The regarded proselytism as a duty, even if they opposed unfair methods like linking Bible reading with the distribution of food or clothing. They objected to the presence of Catholic priests in the schools, even when this was restricted to the periods of separate religious instruction. The Bill was denounced in Parliament and outside. The leader of this attack was the Irish Earl of Roden a noted Orange leader and member of several Protestant Evangelising societies. They set up a Church Education Society and joined forces with the Kildare Place Society, which was now deprived of all public support. For these clergymen the return of a proper Tory administration without Peel became an essential. In attacking the system of National Education they had the full support of the anti-popery zealots of Exeter Hall. Earlier in the year there was a meeting in Exeter Hall to promote scriptural education in Ireland. 

Though less wealthy than the Established Church the Presbyterians belonging to the Synod of Ulster also rejected assistance from the Board as this would involve discontinuing the use of the Bible as a compulsory schoolbook. The formidable Dr. Cooke led the opposition. The dispute between the Presbyterians and the Board seems to have been due partly to misunderstandings. When the matter was settled a few years later, each side claimed that no compromise or concession had been made. But the schools became in effect denominational when the Presbyterians secured an agreement that a clergyman from another denomination should not be allowed to enter their schools.

            The National Board took over the work of the Kildare Place Society and Government funds for primary education were transferred to it. It was a national scheme in as much that any parish in any county or barony could apply for assistance. The Board provided funds, and a system of inspection, and other services like teacher training, agricultural instruction, and the provision of schoolbooks and teaching materials. Strict rules were made and enforced at any attempts at proselytising either Catholic or Protestant children. The Board was to appoint and pay the inspectors. Combined literary and moral instruction was to be taught on four or five days, while separate denominational instruction could be given by the local clergy on one day. Or the clergy could teach for one hour every day, in the schoolhouse, outside school hours. The local committee was to provide the site and appoint teachers. These however the Board could remove if unsatisfactory. A basic salary was to be provided for each teacher by the local committee, it being understood that the Board would add to it. (In 1870 the English Education Act on similar principles was passed, but the education was to be provided by local boards who did not control Church schools, which received some direct grants subject to Government inspection.)

Vested schools were to be built by the Board of Works Two thirds of the cost of the school was to be paid by the Board, but only if the school was vested with the Board, and not used for any other purposes. If not vested the local committee was totally responsible for all costs of building and maintenance. Most of the sites for schools were donated by Protestant landlords (McNeill 104f). Having gained recognition from the Board with their prospectus, a local priest might do nothing for years. Buildings could remain as bad or worse than in the days of the hedgeschools. As late as 1903, complaints were made regarding the lack of proper seating and equipment in some schools, these being the responsibility of the local management. About 1860, when Vere Foster appointed himself as an inspector of national schools, he found numerous examples of schools, with ‘damp clay privies…no teacher’s desk or benches for the scholars…and scarcely any school requisites’ (ibid.). Playgrounds or playing fields were unheard off. Foster spent much of his own money trying to remedy these defects. One teacher who commenced teaching in Tipperary in 1835 was given a thatched shed open on three sides. The floor was gravelled and usually dry. Ten years later a young curate secured a patch of ground and persuaded the farmers to cart stones for a new building and built the school. The first desks were lengths of plank laid on blocks of wood. But when his son took over from him 40 years later he complained of the unceiled roof, the rickety old desks, broken floor, and draughty windows. His father told him he was lucky (Irish School Weekly 25 May 1929). (In a Report in 1920, it was stated that there were 7,947 national schools of which 3620 were vested and 4327 non-vested. The standards of the buildings and furnishings were still appalling, with thatched roofs, clay floors and no toilets Irish School Weekly 5 August 1922. The schools were soon afterwards transferred to Departments of Education in the two new states. For many years afterwards few changes were made in non-adopted schools.)

 Though there was a requirement to provide religious instruction, it was not stated that the master or mistress should teach it. If they did not, however, they were liable to instant dismissal by the clerical manager. Women teachers, especially, were often selected because of their ability to play the church organ and teach the choir, and perform other duties in the local church. (This practice was by no means confined to Ireland.) Women were not admitted to the central training college until 1845. A basic training was given in the Model Schools. However, if the textbooks supplied by the Board, and mostly written by Archbishop Whately, dealt with the earth sciences like geology or the history of the world conflict with champions of the Bible could not be far off. (Lyell’s Principles of Geology was published in 1830, and Whately incorporated elements of it into a textbook, which produced an explosion from MacHale. Lyell’s principles are now universally accepted, but are incompatible with a literal interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis.) The books provided by the Board were not compulsory, but the teachers for three reasons generally used them. Firstly, they were cheap. Secondly, in practice they formed the curriculum, and inspectors when examining expected the children to know what was in them. Thirdly, they were excellent. Their content was wide-ranging, going far beyond the simple Three R’s of the bible-based schools.

 Inevitably, the sectarian divisions which had flared to heights unseen in Ireland for centuries during the so-call ‘Tithe War’ wrought havoc with the system. Local clergymen of the various denominations fought hard for the position of school manager. There were too many small, and inadequately, staffed schools, largely because of rivalry between denominations. Apart from the local clergy, there was little local input into schools from gentlemen or businessmen. Local input and control was supposed to be a central feature of the system, but the clergy kept out all rivals. (Report in Weekly Irish Times 19 March 1904). Parents were supposed to make a small contribution, but there was no way of enforcing this. From this would appear to derive the custom often referred to that each child had to bring a sod of turf each day for the school fire. (Some religious orders ran ‘penny-a-week schools’ in the towns, so presumably that was the scale of the expected contribution.) The basic idea of a large local input from gentlemen, farmers, manufacturers, clergymen and other interested parties was totally ignored and blocked by the local clergy, as Vere Foster was to find out. Attendance was very irregular. Attendance was not made compulsory until the eighteen nineties.  The inspectors were university graduates, and had to take the view that any school was better than no school.  

Teachers, male and female, had to apply to the clergyman for a position, they had to approach his house by the servants’ entrance, and could be dismissed at an hour’s notice. Most teachers were men. Often they were former hedgeschool masters and very good at their job. The starting salary offered could be between £9 and £16 a year. (£5 a year was regarded as the basic subsistence level.) Any attempt to meet for mutual instruction or to form a union could lead to instant dismissal by the clerical manager. Though some inspectors sympathised with the teachers and assisted them. Naturally, any criticism of the school buildings would lead to dismissal. The teachers had no contracts of employment, no house, and no pension. The Board made no contribution towards teachers’ residences. Nor apparently were most committees willing to add to their basic salary. The teachers’ over-riding concern was therefore to save enough to get a lease on a small house and a small patch of land as a provision for their old age. But many ended their days in the poor house. All these defects were eventually remedied. The history of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, INTO, in the nineteenth century, is illuminating in this respect. It was concerned above all with securing basic rights and conditions, taken for granted in the following century. But the root cause of them was the reluctance of the local clergy to collect any money except for themselves. The clergy seem to have submitted to the Board for only two reasons, one to keep out the other side, and two, to get the teachers’ salary paid.  

However, in the towns, where the religious orders had established schools, and the orders accepted aid and criticism from the Board, by far the best results were obtained. Archbishop Murray encouraged the orders in his diocese to accept the Board. The plan for national education, supported by the state, could have been of immense benefit to Ireland. But from the very start it got bogged down in trench warfare with the various churches. One religious order, the Irish Christian Brothers, always refused to vest their schools, and so had to pay full costs. But like all the other religious orders, they depended heavily on the basic salary paid by the Board. By 1852, there were 4,875 national schools with about half a million pupils. With regard to secondary education the endowed schools were regulated under a different Act. Voluntary schools, such as hedgeschools and the schools of the Education Societies, were not regulated at all.  

Whately was a great believer in practical instruction, and the Board wished to see plots of land attached to each school where a qualified master could instruct the boys in the best agricultural practice. The Board also wished to introduce more advanced or scientific courses. Oddly enough, a rule was made which negated the basic principle of educating all Irish children together, and that was that history could only be taught in the period of separate religious instruction. As the Church of Ireland Gazette later observed, one set of children revering the ‘pious, glorious and immortal memory’ of William III, and the other regarded him as the greatest scoundrel unhung. In practice history was not taught, and where it was, it was distorted by bigotry (Church of Ireland Gazette 8 Feb 1901). [Top] 

Ireland under Anglesey and Stanley 

[Autumn 1831] When the second Reform Bill was introduced in the autumn of 1831, it was defeated in the Lords. Amid intense excitement in the whole country the Whigs introduced a third Reform Bill, but this got bogged down in Committee in the Lords. Parliament was prorogued on the 30 October 1831 and reconvened on the 6 December. 

Shortly after the General Election of 1831 and the lapse of the legislation against associations the Trades’ Political Union began to hold regular weekly meetings. Marcus Costello had political ambitions, so O'Connell tried to get the rules of the Union changed in order that he and his followers could join. (Public meetings of gentlemen were held in mid-afternoon; those of tradesmen when the day's work was finished, i.e. after 6 p.m.) When he failed in this he formed his own National Political Union. The members of the Trades’ Political Union undertook their original activity of registering voters. They also helped the collect the O'Connell Tribute or Rent which was now amounting to over £30,000 a year. 

O’Connell’s Association was modelled on the London and Birmingham Political Unions. It could have branches all over Ireland seeking parliamentary reform, and repeal of the Act of Union, but they would not correspond with each other. (Shortly afterwards, the Birmingham Political Union was suppressed after it advocated forming a militia to maintain law and order.) Originally, the National Political Union and the Trades Political Union were envisaged as complementary and O’Connell belonged to both. But he resigned from the Trades Union in March 1832 as a protest against its decision to admit Jack Lawless. Lawless then resigned from the National Union and was expelled from the other. 

            Once again, the Orangemen began to organise themselves in opposition. A series of great Protestant rallies was held towards the end of 1831. The collection of the Protestant Rent and the registering of the voters in the constituencies were resumed. Conway noted that the three groups, the trade unionists, the Repealers, and the Orangemen, were united on one point: they were all opposed to the Government.   

In the autumn of 1831, the Government issued instructions with regard to dealing with the cholera epidemic which had been spreading across western Europe from Russia, and which was expected to reach Ireland at any time. In France, the new Government attacked religious houses, and British citizens who were resident therein were told to leave the country. In the Trappist or Cistercian monastery of Melleray in Brittany, there were about seventy members of the community who were British citizens, mostly from Ireland, and these were forced to leave the country. After a period searching for a suitable property in Ireland on which to settle, the local landlord, Sir Richard Keane gave them an extensive tract of mountainous boggy land in County Waterford. They were to reclaim the boggy mountains, and teach the local people best agricultural practice. They settled there in June 1832 and called their monastery, Mount Melleray, and it remains to this day. Their misfortunes were widely reported in the press, and no attempt was made to apply the expulsion clauses in the Emancipation Act (1829) to them.  O'Connell's patent of precedence was at last granted in November 1831, giving him precedence in court after the serjeants.

[1832] Stanley’s Select Committee on Irish Tithes was appointed in December 1831 and it reported in February 1832. Archbishop Whately and Dr Doyle were among those examined. Doyle maintained that there was no obligation in conscience on Catholics to pay tithes to those who were not their own pastors. The Report was referred to a Committee of the whole House. Stanley recounted the ineffectual efforts to collect the tithes, and said some new measure must be brought in. He introduced this Bill the following July. In fact, attempts to distrain goods, chiefly cattle, to sell by public auction to pay the tithes were defeated by immense hostile crowds gathering to intimidate any purchaser (Carlow Morning Post 28 May 1832). 

Terrorist activity was still rife, and Dr Doyle wrote to Anglesey thanking him for the Special Commission he had sent to Queen’s County. Dr Kinsella of Ossory (Kilkenny) issued a strong pastoral against those in his diocese engaged in agrarian disorders. No absolution in confession was to be given to them until they had renounced the evil secret society to which they belonged. Nor were they to be absolved until they had made full restitution for all injuries done, or goods stolen or destroyed. Nor was it to be given until a further twelve months had elapsed and penance performed. These rules to apply to all who were engaged in the illegal activity even if only by silence and consent, or those who benefited from the unlawful activity. Rather unusually, the terrorism spread to the Barrow Navigation. Horses were houghed or otherwise maimed, boats burned or destroyed, and various other outrages committed to prevent the use of horses to displace men from hauling the barges. It was the last river in Ireland on which hauling by men survived (DEP 24 March 1832). 

On the other hand, preparations for Ireland’s first railway were well advanced. A Bill authorising its construction had been passed in 1832. These were private member’s Bills and were the first big expense involved in the construction of a railway. Alexander Nimmo was engaged to prepare the plans, and the English standard gauge agreed on. On Nimmo’s death in 1832, Charles Vignoles was appointed. The following year the contract for construction was awarded to William Dargan from county Carlow. The six-mile track was completed and opened in 1834. 

The cholera reached Ireland in March 1832. Among its victims was the elderly Primate Curtis. Dr Kelly of Dromore was made archbishop, but he died very young, and was succeeded by the liberal bishop of Down and Connor (Belfast) Dr William Crolly. Crolly worked closely with Archbishop Murray until his death in 1849.  

In April 1832 Stanley introduced an interim Bill to authorise the advance from Government funds of sums not exceeding £500 in individual cases or £60,000 in total to clergymen in financial distress. When the Committee of Inquiry on Tithes reported, Stanley announced three Bills. The first would make tithe commutation compulsory. The second would re-organise the finances of the Established Church. The third would change the law on the holding of Church lands. The first of these Acts, the Irish Tithe Act (1832) was passed in July 1832, making compositions permanent and compulsory. It provided that yearly tenants and tenants at will should be exempt, and in all future leases the landlord would pay the tithe. A reduction in the tithe of 15% was offered to the landlords (DEP 5 Aug 1834). As Conway observed, it came ten years too late. Many Catholics had been led to expect the total abolition of tithes. The Sub-letting Act (1826), which had caused so much distress was emended. A Committee of Inquiry into Irish Church Revenues was set up. The Irish Government and the cabinet were also considering measures relating to Grand Juries, the police, a Poor Law or Labour Rate, the control of arms, and the control of processions. All of these were eventually passed in the course of the decade. 

In May 1832, the king asked Wellington to try to form a ministry that was prepared to introduce a lesser measure of reform, but this proved impossible. William then agreed to create fifty new peers, and the Tories in the Lords gave way. The Reform Bill (1832) became law in June 1832. 

            The Irish Reform Bill (1832) was then passed in May. As Stanley explained, its chief purpose was to provide a sufficient number of electors in the boroughs. The number of electors in Belfast was expected to go up from 13 to 2,300. Most of the rotten boroughs had disappeared at the Act of Union, while the property qualification for voting had been established by the Catholic Relief Act (1829). The Bill therefore was aimed at revoking the exclusive rights of various people granted by the individual town charters, and to some extent modifying the town boundaries.

            The entire Irish electorate (1832), after the Act, was estimated as being about 52,000. Of the counties, Antrim had 3,700 voters, Kerry 1158, Louth 862, and Cork 4,012, to give a few examples (Carlow Morning Post 11 Feb 1833). These county voters were nearly all £10 freeholders and custom demanded that they should all be individually canvassed and their vote solicited. Their landlord's permission had first to be obtained before they were canvassed. Failure to ask the permission would result in a challenge to a duel. Priests could not be challenged to fight duels, so O'Connell was always anxious to involve political priests to secure their services at election time. This strengthened the perception that an Irish Parliament would be over-run by Catholic priests. None of the other candidates employed them so, between 1830 and 1850, when Catholic priests were engaged in electioneering it was always for one of O'Connell's candidates. Among the boroughs, Armagh city had 413 voters, Carlow town 276, Cork city 4,285, and New Ross 132 (ibid.). 

            In May 1832, O’Connell unveiled his plan for a federal constitution of the United Kingdom following the restoration of an Irish parliament. Two separate parliaments, one for Ireland, and one for Britain, would meet simultaneously in Dublin and London in October each year to deal with the legislation for their respective spheres. Then each January, an Imperial parliament would meet to deal with common affairs like war, peace, colonies, and foreign relations. Ireland would have a fair representation in such a parliament. It seems clear that at this point at least O’Connell accepted Sharman Crawford’s argument that a simple repeal of the Act of Union, and a simple return to the status in 1799 was no longer desirable. A mutual antipathy made it impossible for them to co-operate. But once again we are left wondering how serious O’Connell ever was regarding Repeal. By the end of the century, for most Protestants a Catholic-controlled Irish Parliament was summed up in two words ‘Tammany Hall’. This refers to the brutal, corrupt, and tyrannical regimes of Irish Catholic Democrats in New York and other American cities. Though the term did not exist at the time, we realise what Protestants and many Catholics expected a restored Irish Parliament controlled by O’Connell’s henchmen to be like.

            The Catholic Church, though not fully satisfied, accepted the plan of National Education. In a synod in Leinster the bishops of that province formally prohibited the use of sacred buildings for profane purposes. Various other synods were being held at this time to tighten up on discipline and to introduce necessary reforms. Doyle was the driving spirit. On the whole he was privately in favour of Repeal, but with a federal constitution. From this time onwards he was constantly in conflict with both O'Connell and the leaders of the agrarian gangs. When he died in 1834 his funeral was notable for its smallness. He was a very able thinker who never spared himself when studying or investigating a subject. He was not invariably right; on the question of the alleged historical fourfold division of the tithes - one part to go to the poor - he was wrong as far as Irish law was concerned. He was convinced that some form of state intervention in the form of a Poor Law or Labour Rate was essential for the alleviation of the awful misery of the very poor. Yet, like so many clergymen of the time he thought it wrong to try to hinder young and improvident marriages. 

            The clergy of the Established Churches in England and Ireland were disconcerted when the Whigs managed to form a ministry. One of the Whigs, Lord Brougham, had founded University College, London, a few years earlier without allowing the clergy the slightest control. When Peel, while introducing the Emancipation Bill in 1829, had re-contested his seat for Oxford University, unworldly dons like Dr John Keble and Dr John Henry Newman did their best to prevent his return. When the Whig 'attack' on the Irish Church was announced, Keble preached a sermon in July 1833 before the assize judge in Oxford on 'National Apostasy'. Keble and Newman then studied the nature of the Church and this led to the Oxford Movement. The Protestant clergy in Ireland were not inclined to surrender any of their traditional rights and privileges. They maintained, with reason, that estimates of the income of the Irish Church were much exaggerated as the peculiar laws regarding the tenancy of Church land made it impossible to get a proper rent. Apart from a few individuals they were not personally bitter, and were adverse to harsh measures. They were educated and cultivated men, now mostly resident in their parishes, freely giving alms and conducting the services of their Church reverently. The Church in the nineteenth century was seen as a suitable career for a younger son of good family, and such normally had a university education. The Protestant clergy in both countries were notable for their contribution to literature, science, and rural development. They looked after the poor and the working classes in a paternalistic fashion. There were a few, like the Rev. Mortimer O'Sullivan, who were involved in an anti-Popery campaign in conjunction with Exeter Hall. O'Sullivan resembled very closely a Catholic priest, the Rev. James Maher. Both appealed to the prejudices of their hearers, both told the truth as they saw it, but never the whole truth. Neither took care to check their stories. James Maher was an uncle of Cardinal Cullen. 

            After the passing of the Great Reform Act (1832) it was felt appropriate to call another General Election so that a Parliament could be elected under the new rules. Consequently, in August Parliament was first prorogued until October, and then until December when it was dissolved. The meetings of the rival political Unions continued. The Trades still strongly supported O’Connell. Conway in the Post referred to them as the Upper House and Lower House. The leaders of the Trades Political Union got themselves involved in the anti-tithe campaign, were arrested and tried at a Special Commission for unlawfully exciting resistance to the laws. They were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. The Protestants started a Protestant Conservative Association to oppose the other two. All were busy registering voters. The two Catholic associations were trying to extract pledges regarding Repeal from candidates, and Sir Francis Burdett denounced this. In his opinion this would drive capable and honest men out of parliament, and allow in rash, ignorant, knavish, reckless, and unprincipled persons. (The character of those who later were called O’Connell’s Tail bore this out.)  

The recently formed Irish Zoological Society inspected a site in the Phoenix Park for their proposed zoo. Cases of cholera reported in Dublin now passed 10,000 in September, and 12,000 in October, but new cases were by then down to 20 a week. On 23 October 1832 there was a meeting of The Friends of Temperance held in the British and Foreign schoolroom, Marlborough St. Dublin to promote total abstinence. The total abstinence movement had lately arrived from America, and was to play a great role in both Catholic and Protestant Churches in the British Isles over the next century. A meeting took place in Dublin of the Board of Correspondence for the Extinction of Colonial Slavery, and it issued an electoral address to the electors of Ireland. William Wilberforce’s life-long campaign was nearing its successful conclusion.



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