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Chapter Twelve

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

The First Reformed Parliament

(December 1832 to December 1834)

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. A modest attempt to reform the Established Church was resisted by the Tories.


General Election 1832

First Session of Reformed Parliament

Return of Wellesley

The Tithe Bill (1834)

Agrarian Crime

Melbourne’s Ministry and the Tory Revival


General Election 1832 

[December 1832] The years between 1832 and 1835 marked a great watershed in British politics. They became known as the ‘Great Era of Reform’. The rule of the Tory Party that had lasted for over half a century came to an end. There began the regular alternation between two great parties that was to be such a prominent feature of democracy in English-speaking countries. The reforms were inspired by the ideas of the recently deceased Jeremy Bentham, whose Utilitarian philosophy was based on the questions, What use is it? and What provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number? Reforms based on Bentham’s principles were to preoccupy the Whigs for the next century. The Tories, led by Peel, responded in 1834 with a programme based on conserving what was good and purging only what was bad. They therefore called themselves Conservatives, while the Whigs increasingly called themselves Liberals to indicate that they valued personal freedom above all. This led to a constant attempt to extend the franchise, culminating in votes for all women in 1928, passed incidentally by the Conservatives. Grey (1833) and Peel (1834) marked the real turning point between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  

The battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo could have been fought anytime in the previous three centuries. Napoleon travelled by coach or on horseback, as did Wellington and Castlereagh. Now there were railways and steamships, steam hammers and iron ships, rifled guns, exploding shells, and the electric telegraph. The struggle for Emancipation was in many ways the last battle of the eighteenth century, while the ‘Second Reformation’ was the opening phase of the great nineteenth century of evangelisation. The identification of the new age with the beginning of Victoria’s reign in 1837 is not too inaccurate. (Coincidentally, modern France commenced in 1830 with the banishing of the Bourbons, and the conquest of a new French Empire in North Africa. The pre-eminence of German universities in a wide range of modern studies, like history, antiquity, philology, metaphysics, medicine, natural history, and biblical studies, was now recognised DEP 16 Oct. 1832. The railway and the steamboat opened up the interior of the United States, focussing American interest westwards towards the frontier). 

Lord Grey made no changes in the ministry, and the great programme of legislative reform was continued. The session of 1833 exceeded anything in living memory. Parliament sat for 1270 hours spread over 142 days, with sittings on some days lasting 12 hours. The total number of hours was nearly double that of 1806 (Morning Chronicle of London).

            The first General election (December 1832) after the Great Reform Act set a pattern in Irish politics which was to last for half a century. Moderate Toryism that had been represented by Wellington, Wellesley, Castlereagh, Plunket, Kendall Bushe, and so on, virtually disappeared. From now on Toryism in Ireland was of the High Tory anti-Peel and Wellington variety. The moderate Tories or Canningites joined the Whigs. The Catholics in general supported the Whigs when they were not favouring a candidate for Repeal. Support for Repeal waxed and waned among Catholics but was never found to any extent among either Whig or Tory Protestants. Repealing candidates always had to challenge the Whigs never the Tories, i.e. when Repealers gained the Whigs lost. The electoral strength of the Tories did not vary much. There were two surges when the issue of Repeal came to the fore, one in the early 1830s and one in the mid 1840s. Otherwise, the issue was unimportant, and did not become over-riding until the 1880s. Only the permanent backdrop to all Irish politics, agrarian crime, remained unchanged.

            Consequently, though this was not realised at the very first election, putting up a candidate for Repeal could result in a Tory candidate gaining the seat. Old rivalries now came out into the open. Morgan O'Connell and Henry Grattan, Junior, were put up against Lord Killeen in Meath and both won. Sir Henry Parnell was defeated in Queen's County but was soon after returned for Dundee in Scotland which he continued to represent until he was made a peer. Wyse refused to pledge support for Repeal and was defeated in Waterford. Sheil in Tipperary and Montesquieu Bellew, brother of Sir Patrick Bellew, in Louth gave the pledge with sufficient firmness to be accepted and returned as Repealers, though Sheil was not noticeably enthusiastic. At the urgent request of the Trades' leaders in Dublin O'Connell stood there along with a Whig landlord from county Down named Edward Southwell Ruthven. Both were returned. More O'Ferrall was elected as a Whig. Lord Duncannon withdrew from an Irish constituency. Sir John Burke was defeated in Galway. A newcomer Feargus O'Connor, son of Roger O’Connor, and like his father probably a Whiteboy, was returned as a Repealer in Cork. 

            But the General Election in December 1832 was untypical in one respect. There was a wave of popular feeling in favour of Repeal which quickly vanished, and after the debacle of the debate on Repeal in April 1834 both Whigs and Tories regained ground. In Carlow, at the centre of the tithe disturbances, an unusual situation arose. One of the local priests, the Rev. James Maher, was active in politics. Thirty seven Catholic voters voted for the Tory candidate, and were denounced by the Repealers as religious 'apostates' (Carlow Morning Post). Repeal was always overwhelmingly a Catholic issue. In Meath, an attempt was made to establish a 'Protestant Association' to organise the Tory vote, but it proved unsuccessful. (Lord Killeen moved to the House of Lords in 1836 when he succeeded to his father's titles. He was also made a Privy Councillor and Lord Lieutenant of Meath. He sat in the Lords as Baron Fingall of Woolhampton, and was made a Lord-in-waiting by the young Queen Victoria.)

The Evening Post estimated that 37 Repealers had been returned, the Evening Mail 50, while the judicious Saunder's put the figure at 33. The Evening Freeman divided those returned into 43 Repealers, 2l Tithe-extinguishers, 11 pro-Government Whigs, and 23 Conservatives. The Whigs were mostly Ulster Protestant landlords. This list placed More O'Ferrall and Montesquieu Bellew with the Tithe-extinguishers. The Post judged that many of the alleged Repealers had only bowed to pressure to take the pledges, so it is best to take Saunder's figure. In the event, 38 MPs from the whole House voted with O'Connell. Both at the time and since there was considerable scepticism not only about these candidates' commitment to Repeal, but also about the genuine commitment of O'Connell himself. Feargus O'Connor openly voiced these doubts, and as far as 1832 is concerned, it can be conceded that O'Connell realised that it was only a pipe dream and his campaign was undertaken merely to embarrass the Whigs. From this point of view, it had some success after 1835 when the two main parties in Parliament were more equally balanced. But even then, Melbourne had such contempt for O'Connell that he would never stay in office just on his sufferance, while for O'Connell, if he could put out the Whigs he could only put in the Tories. Ultimately O’Connell was too small-minded and prejudiced to work with Peel, another person who always knew when he was bluffing or fabricating evidence. Yet, in many ways, he was closer to Peel politically than he was to the Whigs. There is another point, endemic in Irish history, which must be remembered about 1832, and that was that O'Connell had to show that constitutional methods could deal with popular grievances like tithes (DEP 12, 24 January 1833). This problem was common to all the parties.

O'Connell had already tried to deal with agrarian crime. He changed the name of his Association once again, calling it The Irish Volunteers on 2 January 1833 (DEP 2, 5 January 1833. As far as one can see the reason this time was to exclude O’Gorman Mahon (Charles James Mahon), to whom O’Connell had taken a dislike. He proposed that the Volunteers should have a ‘Head Pacificator’, and two ‘Regulators’ to compose local disputes and reduce agrarian crime. He dispatched his 'Head Pacificator' (Tommy Steele) to Kilkenny to try to get the people to return to constitutional methods. The ‘Rent’ or ‘O’Connell Tribute’ for 1832 amounted to £12,242. Dr Doyle recommended local farmers to form vigilante groups to deal with the conspirators. The Trades’ Political Union continued to meet. The Evening Mail noted that the ‘Protestant Rent’ had fallen off from £2,000 a week to £100 a week. The National Board published the first volume of Scripture Extracts. [Top]           

First Session of Reformed Parliament 

[1833] The reformed Parliament started sitting on 29 January 1833, and commenced its ‘Benthamite’ reforms. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire, a Factory Inspectorate established, and work by children under nine in the factories was forbidden. The first Parliamentary grants for education in England were voted, £20,000 for the schools of Lancaster and Bell. Among the Acts passed were the Poor Law Amendment Act (1834) which radically changed the administration of the Poor Law in England, and was to have a profound influence on similar legislation for Ireland. In future, a ‘workhouse test’ was to be applied to all poor people seeking assistance from the parish or union of parishes. To get assistance any poor man or woman had to enter a ‘workhouse’ and there do any work that the supervisor might provide. Workhouses or bridewells were not new, and most large towns had provided them for centuries. The problem with them was that such things as they manufactured were sold in direct competition with the products of ordinary manufacturers. The Poor Law Commissioners decided to make conditions in the workhouses so Spartan that it was worse than home conditions of even the poorest labourer. Men and women were segregated, even husbands and wives separated. The aim of this was to prevent them having more children as an additional burden on the parish. Smoking was not allowed, and all meals eaten in silence. The work provided was similar to that in prisons, breaking stones and picking oakum.

Lord John Russell was pressing ahead with his ideas for reforming the Church of England by commuting tithes to a rent charge, equalising the revenues of sees, and re-organising dioceses. Irish legislation had to be fitted in.

The king in his speech to Parliament, spoke of the efforts of his Government to persuade the Dutch king to accept the independence of Belgium, but supported the Union of the United Kingdom. O’Connell, with the help of Cobbett and the Radicals attacked the speech. He also gave notice of ten bills he wished to introduce. None of them had the slightest chance of being passed, but that would go to prove his main point, namely that the United Parliament was not interested in Reform. Lord Althorpe, at the beginning of the session, introduced his Irish Church Reform Bill (1833), while Stanley introduced a Grand Jury Reform Bill. These were overshadowed by the Insurrection Act, or as it was now called, Coercion of Crime Act (1833) which the Government was forced reluctantly (12 February 1833) to introduce to deal with agrarian crime. It was to last until 1 August of the following year. It allowed the use of courts martial but they were never called. In fact the agrarian violence died down suddenly. Conway in the Post (23 Feb.) noted that there was little opposition to the Bill in Dublin, even in the two political unions. Four districts in Kilkenny, four in King's County, four in Westmeath, and one in Galway were proclaimed under the Act, bring the Act into force in those districts.

            The Government felt that O'Connell's method of campaigning caused more crime than it prevented. Tithes, for example, were not a great practical burden, but a speaker like O'Connell denouncing them could make them seem like an enormous grievance. So, the Government included a clause allowing in the Coercion of Crime Bill to suppress associations. O'Connell, in typical language, denounced the 'base, bloody, and brutal Whigs' a phrase which delighted the Irish Tories and which they always recalled with glee. O'Connell's latest Association and the Trades Political Union were suppressed on 10 and 17 April.  

            The Irish Church Reform Act (1833) took account of the fact that many Irish bishoprics in the West and South had very few members. (Even populous dioceses in the north of Ireland were small by English standards.) Bishops and deans always took a disproportionate amount of the revenues of a diocese, and as in England, for historical reasons some sees were very much richer than others. On strictly utilitarian grounds, a thorough re-organisation of the Established Irish Church was due. But that, in effect, would look like abandoning the idea of converting Ireland from popery. The Bill was passed and its provisions included the suppression of ten bishoprics as each fell vacant. Cashel ceased to be an archbishopric in 1838 and Tuam in 1839. The income of the wealthier sees was reduced, and richer benefices of over £200 a year were taxed. First Fruits were discontinued. The Vestry Cess was discontinued. Church Revenue Commissioners were appointed to control the finances of the Established Church, and to use superfluous funds for the building of churches or the augmenting of small livings. The Commission was envisaged as playing a central role when tithes were commuted to a land tax, collectable by the Government from the landlords and payable to the Government. The Government would pay what was required to the Church Commissioners and use the excess, if any, for charitable purposes. The Bill sparked Keble’s ‘National Apostasy’ sermon.

            There was one clause in the Bill, clause 147, which had to be dropped to secure the passage of the main Bill. This was the clause that provided that the excess of revenue over expenditure could be used for non-Church charitable purposes. The Tories fought this clause bitterly. Some Whigs, but not all, regarded the clause as extremely important and insisted in putting it in to every Tithe Bill for the next five years. When the clause was ultimately dropped the Tithe Bill was passed, but by then the value of the tithes themselves had been cut. Considered legally and abstractly the revenues of either of the Churches ‘established by law’ was what Parliament allowed them. But reducing this amount was seen as an attack on the Church. Stanley noted that O’Connell’s legal opinions on the Bill had been sought and obtained.

            Another temporary Tithe Act, the Irish Tithes Arrears Act (1833) was passed in 1833 to deal with the lost tithe revenues. Stanley had planned it, but when he moved to the Colonial Office in March 1933 the Bill was taken over by Edward Littleton, who succeeded him as Irish Secretary in May 1833. (J.C. Hobhouse was briefly Irish Secretary from March to May when he resigned from the Government over the issue of repeal of the window tax.) It became known as the 'Million Act' (1833) (not to be confused with a similar Act passed during the Great Famine) for it allowed the advancing to distressed clergymen of sums not exceeding a million pounds in total. It was secured on the arrears of the tithes that the Government hoped to recover. The sum of £640,000 was advanced for the support of distressed clergymen and their families and was written off in 1838. (Stanley, at the Colonial Office was responsible for the Act abolishing slavery in the British Empire.) 

             An Irish Grand Jury Bill (1833) was passed, the latest in a series dating back to 1817 to further regulate the government of counties. This one was chiefly to control Grand Jury spending. In the eighteenth century, local government was conducted on a very casual basis. Magistrates and sheriffs worked from their own houses, and could exclude the public if they wanted. Elections lasted as long as the sheriff cared to attend. Court records were kept in private houses, and were handed on (or not) from one keeper to another. Voters could be registered at times that suited the clerk. If the clerk could not write, he paid someone who could. Remuneration was through fees. (A gaoler was paid to let a man into prison and to let him out again!) In a simpler society this system could doubtless work. But gradually in the early nineteenth century all this was subjected to regulation. County offices were established in the county town, open to the public at specified hours during which the officers of the county were bound to attend. Appropriate qualifications were demanded from office holders. Medical officers were to have recognised medical qualifications. County surveyors were to have experience in engineering. Policemen were required to be able to write a report. There was no single Act that introduced all these reforms, but collectively they represented one of the greatest developments in Ireland in the first half of the century. 

            An Act that was not passed was equally remarkable. From about 1780 the Irish Government in Dublin had been prodding the county Grand Juries to do various things which required the spending of money: the care of the sick poor, the provision of an adequate police force, the building of proper gaols, the care of lunatics, and so on. At times, it took over jobs that were more properly the concerns of the counties, like policing or public works. Yet, no attempt was made to reform or abolish the system of local government by Grand Jury. County Councils with clearly defined and regulated powers and obligations were not introduced until 1898. In Dublin city, a proper City Council was established in 1850. The government of Belfast resulted from three separate private Acts. Thomas Wyse was a great advocate of a modern system of county government. Parliament was prorogued on 29 August. In this session O’Connell spoke 647 times. 

In January 1831 Michael O’Loghlen had been appointed third serjeant, and so eligible to get temporary commissions to act as a judge should a regular judge not be available. He was given a commission of assize and gaol delivery for the Maryborough Assizes in Queen’s County in March 1833 in the absence of Chief Baron Joy. He was the first Catholic judge for 150 years (EM 8 April 1833). Griffith’s valuations were now complete, and the Ordnance Survey’s map nearly ready. In June, at a meeting of the Irish MPs in favour of Repeal, Feargus O’Connor demanded that a Bill should be brought in immediately. O’Connell favoured postponement, and won on a vote by 13 to 6. The Dublin Evening Post published a letter from a gentleman who said that O’Connell had confessed to another gentleman that Repeal was impossible to obtain, and he was only using the agitation to extract better legislation from England (DEP 12 Jan. 1833). Dr Doyle’s health gave way and in May he went to take the waters at Leamington Spa and then to Tramore, co. Waterford. On 20 August 1833 the foundation stone of the new abbey of Mount Melleray was laid. Sir Richard Keane said that in his travels on the Continent he had often heard of the excellent work of the monks and their skill at agricultural improvements. The biggest local landlord, the Duke of Devonshire contributed £100 towards the building. Marcus Costello and his co-defendants were released from prison on completion of their sentences. Work under Vignoles continued on the Dublin to Kingstown Railway. Part of its course was twenty feet above the streets. It commenced near Westland Road chapel. The normal travelling speed was to be 20 miles an hour. [Top] 

Return of Wellesley           

[Autumn 1833] Anglesey went to England because of ill health, and this caused unconcealed joy of the Orange faction. Their joy was short-lived for their old adversary Wellesley was re-appointed and arrived in September 1833. Like his predecessor, Wellesley gave precedence to the necessity of calming the anxieties of the old ascendancy faction. Not only O'Connell but also people like Joseph Hume failed to realise that there was more to be gained in the longer term by allaying these fears, and that the worst possible policy was to insist on expropriating Church property or examining the Orange Order. Such attempts not only strengthened opposition to the Whigs; they strengthened opposition to Peel within the Tory Party. Lord John Russell visited the Whig families in Ulster to gauge feelings for himself. A Commission of Inquiry into the need for an Irish Poor Law was set up, and it included Whateley, Murray, Carlile, and More O'Ferrall. The Protestant Evening Mail objected to the ostentatious way the Marchioness Wellesley visited Catholic places of worship, including attending High Mass in the Jesuit church in Dublin. At this time trade union violence was becoming a cause for concern in Dublin city, and the Lord Mayor convened a meeting of the citizens to decide how best to deal with it. It was estimated that ships were being built on the Tyne at half the cost of those built in Dublin, largely due to combinations. In December Dr. Doyle was too ill to attend the consecration of a new church. In January 1834 a letter of James Ryan to the editor of the Courier (London) pointing out that it was he who got the campaign for Emancipation re-started, after it had been wrecked by the leaders of the United Irishmen (DEP 28 Jan. 1834). O’Connell was then very inactive. Lord Cloncurry expressed to Conway the opinion that Anglesey would have achieved far more in the preceding session if his hand had not been weakened by O’Connell’s incessant agitation. Furthermore, though he was a life-long opponent of the Act of Union, he refused to join the movement for Repeal because of O’Connell’s agitation. The O’Connell Tribute for 1833 came to £13,516. [Top] 

The Tithe Bill (1834)           

[1834] Parliament was recalled on 4 February 1834. Early in the session of 1834, Littleton introduced his Tithe Bill (1834). It proposed commuting the tithe into a rent charge collectable from the landlords by the Government and payable to the Government which would then a allocate the necessary sums to the Church Revenue Commissioners, making up the perceived initial shortfall, but 'appropriating' any excess which should eventually occur. The landlord was to be allowed to deduct 20% from what he collected from the tenants, and an additional 20% if he registered immediately. This would have meant an immediate 40% reduction in the amount of tithe actually paid, which would have to be made up by the Government. It had no clause for appropriation of superfluous revenues, the cabinet siding with Stanley against Russell on this point. The crown would make up any shortfall in the amount of tithes collected, but could re-imburse itself from other Church Revenues.

Stanley’s 1832 Act which was to last for five years, after which the tithe would be converted into a straightforward rent charge (DEP 8 July 1834, citing the London Observer). Stanley who had devised a scheme for the entire extinction of tithes attacked the Bill. Stanley had recognised that it was impossible to collect tithes by force, and any attempt to do so would only turn the people against the Government and the Church. The essential point in Stanley's plan was that landlords would be able to, and encouraged to, buy out the tithes for themselves from the Government. The tithes would be totally extinguished by means of composition and redemption. The landlords should purchase from the Church the rights to tithes for a multiple of the annual tithe (DEP 8 July 1834. It should be remembered that many landlords already had this right as impropriate tithe-owners). Stanley further proposed that tenants-at-will, or with yearly leases, and much of the land in Ireland was taken by these, should not be tithed at all, but the landlord should pay. He noted that one of the reasons for advancing one million pounds had been to enable landlords to buy the tithes with the arrears, and this too had been a reason for enforcing the collection of tithes. (It naturally involved the landlord collecting the tithes for himself as an addition to the rent. It was included in the final settlement forty years later with very limited results, and did not lead to lower rents -Lyons.) The Government considered this scheme impracticable and it was dropped. Lord Althorpe said the purpose of the present bill was to change the tithe into a rent charge as speedily as possible, and this was the reason for the favourable terms offered to landlords. In other words, the landlord would pay the tithes, not the cultivator, but he would recover them through the rent. He went on to say that Parliament clearly had a right to dispose of surplus Church revenues, and if the Church Commissioners established that such a surplus existed, then Parliament could dispose of it.

The chief difference between Stanley’s proposal and Littleton’s seems to lie in the fact that in Stanley’s scheme the landowners would purchase the tithes from the Church so that Catholic tenants would not be paying directly for the support of the Protestant clergy. With the money they received the Protestant clergy could buy land or other revenue-producing property. 

 In the course of the debate, Lord John Russell gave his opinion that the revenues of the Irish Church were excessive and Stanley whispered to his neighbour, 'Johnny has upset the coach'. There were several Members whose support in Parliament was necessary who considered that Russell was going too far. O’Connell, as usual, did not help matter by insisting that Clause 147, which would enable superfluous Church revenues to be spent for non-Church purposes, was essential. Using a surplus of Church revenue for Church purposes most Protestants could accept. But to use it for example to pay the Maynooth grant would be intolerable. Shortly afterwards, in May 1834, Stanley and some others resigned. Spring Rice took over the Colonial Office.  

The resignation of Stanley was no minor matter. It opened up the road of promotion for Lord John Russell, and he succeeded Melbourne as Whig leader some years later. It is hard not to sympathise with Stanley on this point for Russell’s campaign to expropriate supposedly excessive Church revenues through Clause 147 caused several years of unnecessary strife. Stanley joined the Tories, taking with him many followers, thereby strengthening Peel. Half a century later, the Tory party commenced the solution of the problem of land-ownership and rents, by enabling the tenants to buy their rented property from the landlords. When Littleton and Grey resigned (July 1834) over the renewal of the Coercion Act (1833) the Whig ministry began to totter. Peel was a powerful debater, and so too was Stanley. The balance in the House of Commons shifted towards the Tories. Had Stanley remained with the Whigs they could have dominated British politics for many years to come. In the event, the High Churchmen resolutely refused even to consider any use of Church revenues for other than Church purposes, so Gladstone in 1869 confiscated all Church lands. [Top] 

Agrarian Crime           

            Though the country was less disturbed the Government wished to retain the emergency powers for another year. On 1 July Earl Grey regretfully proposed the renewal of the Coercion of Crime (1833) Act. He noted that under it four districts in Kilkenny, four baronies in King’s county, four baronies in Westmeath and on barony in Galway had been proclaimed. Crime in these areas was decreasing. Louth, Carlow, and Wexford were now quiet. Disturbances were increasing only in Queen’s County. All Munster, except Tipperary was quiet, and there it varied from barony to barony. In Connaught, only Galway was seriously disturbed, though there was some unrest in Roscommon and Sligo. In Ulster, only the border counties of Donegal, Monaghan, and Armagh had serious crime. Almost half the insurrectionary incidents were in Leinster, and there they formed one half of all crime.

All four provincial inspectors of police requested the renewal of the Act, and the Lord Lieutenant, Wellesley, concurred. He proposed just one change, the abolition of courts martial that had given considerable offence. If necessary the powers of these courts could be transferred to the ordinary quarter sessions courts. He attributed much of the violence to the fiery character of speeches at meetings even if the results went far beyond what was intended by the speakers. Only two associations had been proclaimed, that of the Political Trades Union (Costello’s) and that of the Irish Volunteers (O’Connell’s). No action was taken against any ordinary association. There was some objection to the suppression of societies. Littleton was anxious to conciliate O'Connell on the issue of the societies, and persuaded Wellesley to agree with him. Wellesley had written to Grey in favour of retaining those powers, but now wrote that he did not particularly mind. Littleton told O'Connell that the clauses would be removed, but Earl Grey insisted on putting them in. O'Connell announced that he had been deceived. He fully supported the Act in so far as it was directed against agrarian disturbances and had on this understanding not opposed the Whigs in a by-election in Wexford.  Conway in the Post (5 July) observed that O’Connell had the previous year suggested various measures against the agrarian criminals which were rejected by Serjeant Perrin as too harsh. (Louis Perrin, son of a French émigré, was made Third Serjeant in 1832). Littleton offered his resignation. The cabinet in fact had never given any assurances, and Littleton had exceeded his instructions. The general feeling was that Grey himself should resign and this he did on 9 July. Lord Melbourne was asked to form a ministry (July 1834). Littleton, at Lord Althorpe’s insistence, was included, but after Melbourne’s resignation never held office again. He was a worthy man of moderate abilities and was out of his depth in dealing with Russell, Stanley, and O’Connell. He was one of the few failures in the post of Irish Secretary. Althorpe agreed to withdraw his own resignation, if Littleton was restored and the clauses against associations were dropped. Littleton remained as Irish Secretary until December. Littleton’s Tithe Bill itself was defeated in the Lords on 11 August.  The parliamentary session ended on 15 August 1834 and with it the 1833 Coercion Act. [Top] 

Melbourne’s Ministry and the Tory Revival 

            [July 1834] In Melbourne's first ministry, his brother-in-law, Lord Duncannon (John William Ponsonby), succeeded him at the Home Office. Thomas Spring Rice went to the Colonial Office. Wellesley remained as Lord Lieutenant. Sir Henry Parnell was now Secretary at War. Sir John Newport became Comptroller General of the Exchequer. Michael O’Loghlen briefly became Solicitor General for Ireland. Richard More O’Ferrall was made a Lord of the Treasury. Lord Plunket remained as Irish Lord Chancellor. Irishmen were thus well represented in Government. The Coercion Act (1833) was renewed for another year without the clauses on meetings. The Lords, dominated by the resurgent Tories, began to block all the Whig legislation. 

            After the general Election of 1832, it was noted that O'Connell was reluctant to bring forward a motion on Repeal. His enemies accused him of insincerity; his defenders said it was because he knew the time was not ripe. Others thought that he was fishing for a Government post. Feargus O'Connor forced the issue by giving notice of a motion of his own on the subject. The Irish MP's who were supposed to be advocating Repeal had met and backed O'Connell. William Sharman Crawford (or Sharman-Crawford) began advocating Federalism as a middle course, but his ideas received little attention at this time. O'Connell then wrote an open letter to every Irish parish telling them to meet and petition for Repeal. Apart from one large public meeting in Meath the result was disappointing for him. In many parishes only a handful of people signed, and the total number of signatures did not amount to more than 80,000, much less than the number who petitioned against the renewal of the Coercion Act (1833). The 'Rent' was maintained steady at around £12,000 a year, but one Catholic wrote an open letter to Archbishop Murray complaining of the tactics of the collectors. They positioned themselves just outside the chapel doors on Sundays and importuned all those entering. If anyone refused he was 'marked'.  (DEP 18 Jan 1834. 

            When Parliament re-assembled in 1834 O'Connell was compelled at least to attempt a motion for Repeal. His speech on his own motion on 22 April 1834 was regarded as among the worst in his entire career, and dealt with grievances hundreds of years old. Spring Rice ably refuted him with a crisp and effective speech to the point. The motion was rejected by 523 votes to 38. Frederick Conway noted that the issue was now dead. It was not to be a practical issue in politics for another half century, but it was an issue that kept bringing in the ‘Rent’ for O’Connell. Nor is it necessary to assume any high ideals in the Rent Collectors any more than was later found in Tammany Hall Democrats. 

            The Tory, or as it was now being called, the Conservative Party was shattered in the General Election of 1832, and the confidence of the Irish Tories was also shattered. On every side their enemies seemed to be successful, Whigs, Catholics, tithe-resisters, advocates of mixed education, and even terrorists. At the beginning of 1833 the Evening Mail complained that the 'Protestant Rent' had fallen off from £2,000 a week to merely £100 a week. But the figures show that the Irish Protestants, if they wished, could collect £100,000 a year.

From this low point the revival of the Tories began. O'Connell was defeated on Repeal, Stanley split the Whigs, and Grey was forced to resign. When Melbourne took office the Tories commenced blocking his legislation systematically. The Second Reformation seemed to be getting under way. Some Catholic priests conformed to Protestantism, and one named Fr Croly wrote a book against his former Church. Protestant colonies were being planted in Gaelic-speaking areas. Young preachers like Mortimer O'Sullivan were co-operating with Exeter Hall London in an anti-popery campaign. The fact that the Catholic bishops now refused to engage in polemical disputations with him convinced him that victory was his. The Protestant campaign or crusade had another champion, a fiery clergyman called the Rev. Marcus Beresford (later archbishop of Armagh) who at a Protestant meeting in the Mansion House in Dublin presided over by the Lord Mayor said he wished to get rid of ‘bloody popish rebels’ (DEP 16 August 1834). The confidence of the Irish Protestants had so far revived by the end of 1834 that one of them, a minister, led a crowd of Protestants into an Aggregate Meeting to preach to the assembled crowd. Great Protestant rallies were again taking place. A Conservative Association was formed on 19 August a few days after the 1833 Coercion Act expired. O’Connell considered setting up local Liberal Clubs. In the event he did nothing until the dismissal of Melbourne became known in November.

In the history of the Irish Church Archbishop Power Le Poer Trench, archbishop of Tuam is chiefly remembered for his activity in promoting the remarkable evangelical movement in the west of Ireland called the Second Reformation. From 1818 to his death in 1839 Trench was president of the Irish Society; one of the Biblical Societies which used a version of the Bible in Irish as a means of conversion. Holding strong views as to the paramount importance of the ‘open bible,’ Trench was a strenuous opponent of the mixed system of national education founded by Stanley, and was one of the founders of the Church Education Society. Trench was a man of strong and masterful character, and during the twenty years of his archiepiscopate was one of the foremost figures in the Ireland of his day. He had fewer reservations regarding the Bible Societies than most of the other Irish bishops. He was a son of the first Earl of Clancarty (DNB). It just so happened that his campaign to convert the Irish to Protestantism took place in Archbishop MacHale’s diocese. 

Though the Biblicals or Evangelicals had a very poor reputation among the Catholics of Ireland, they were embarking on what was to prove a remarkably successful world-wide movement. This was especially so in the United States. They preached a simplified version of Christianity which amounted chiefly to believing that Jesus was their Saviour, that the Bible was literally true, that everyone could be saved by reading the Bible for himself without need of a priest, in an extremely simple public worship based on the Bible, and in a sober respectable manner of living, and above all that the Pope was Anti-Christ, and that adherents of the Catholic religion were ensnared by priestcraft. The worship consisted of readings from the Bible, a sermon from a preacher, and the singing of hymns. There was no Church, no clergy, no rites or sacraments or mysteries, only preachers. If you liked the preacher you paid him; otherwise you did not. If you believed in the Lord Jesus you were saved; otherwise you were condemned to the everlasting pains of hell. It was to prove extremely popular, especially in the American South and West. (A Western film is incomplete without a preacher.) Most of the converts of the Biblicals in Ireland were from the Presbyterians, and they mostly gave their adhesion to the Methodists who were famous for their stirring hymns. Needless to say, those in the traditional Churches believed there was more to Christianity than that, but they did not agree how much more.  They often played safe by accepting the witness of the Early Church as written down in the writings of the early Church Fathers and the early General Councils. John Henry Newman was particularly in favour of citing the witness of the Early Church. 

            The Catholic bishops continued their efforts to get the political priests to withdraw from politics and continue with their own duties. They also backed Doyle's efforts to get a Poor Law or Labour Rate for Ireland. Doyle's health was now rapidly failing, but he continued his efforts against the secret societies in his diocese. He issued a pastoral for his own diocese virtually identical with that of Dr Kinsella of Ossory, but saying that he did not wish to resort to excommunication for the moment. In 1834 the bishops issued another instruction against the involvement of priests in politics, but they themselves were not too certain about what that meant in practice. There was nothing in Canon Law on the subject of democratic politics. Many like Dr Blake of Dromore and MacHale felt it was possible to signal in a general way their support for O'Connell by publicly contributing to the Rent, or by attending dinners in his honour. In June 1834 Doyle died and his funeral attracted no crowd. He had crossed swords with O'Connell on various issues, so his followers did not attend. Neither did those who sympathised with the secret societies or with violent measures to stop tithe collecting. That left only Catholic Whigs. MacHale was promoted to be archbishop of Tuam. Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary, with considerable prescience objected to this in Rome, but his objection was over-ruled by the Pope when Archbishop Murray supported the promotion. (Murray was much older than MacHale and had been President of Maynooth when MacHale was a student there. He considered that MacHale’s sharpness of language was explained by the dreadful famine conditions in his diocese. But Palmerston was wiser; for MacHale was to spend the rest of his long life trying to block every useful measure of reform from whatever source. He always considered his own views correct.) MacHale shortly afterwards appended his name to the requisition of a meeting of the Independent Club of Mayo, though he declined to attend. He said it was necessary to guide people nowadays about Whig and Tory policies that were virtually identical. (Carlow Morning Post 6 Dec 1834). 

            In 1834 the first railway in Ireland the Dublin to Kingstown Railway was opened. The railway had survived an attempt strongly backed by O'Connell and the Trades Political Union to have it blocked and a ship canal built from Kingstown to the Grand Canal at Dublin instead. The latter idea was not without merit, but the Railway Company was first on the scene, and the objections of the Trades were too obviously to protect the carmen along the route. Also, they demanded public money to construct it, while the railway companies issued prospectuses. The age of railways in Ireland had commenced. Dargan constructed a deep-water port with a straight river channel for Belfast. The mud he dredged up from the channel formed 'Dargan's Island', later named 'Queen's Island', the world-famous centre of Belfast shipbuilding. The building of steamships commenced in Belfast where the mighty Titanic was later to be built. In a survey of banking in Ireland the Dublin Evening Post (19 August) listed several private banks in Dublin besides the Bank of Ireland. This latter now had 14 branches outside Dublin. Ulster had 37 banks, Munster 23, Leinster 17, and Connaught 12. Of the banks in Ulster 14 belonged to the Provincial Bank. The two Belfast banks, the Northern, and the Belfast had between them 19 branches in Ulster. About this time O’Connell had a change of mind with regard to banking, and was no longer willing to call for runs on the banks to further his projects. He became closely involved in the National Bank that was being formed at this time (1834). It opened on 6 January 1835 and the following year had already 14 branches. He announced that the Bank of Ireland and the Provincial Bank (whose headquarters was in London) were political institutions, and that a fully Irish bank, based in Ireland, was needed.  

            Melbourne, as noted above, had the Coercion Act (1833) extended for another year but without the clause against meetings. He pressed on with Littleton’s Tithe Bill that was eventually thrown out in the Lords. However Stanley’s Act of 1832 now came into force on 1 November. O’Connell noted that earlier proposals to make tithe composition permanent had been defeated by the extreme Tories and by the Church. Had composition been adopted the outrages in recent years would have been avoided. (In fact, the first resistance was in a parish that had compounded.) When Stanley tried to make composition compulsory in 1832, this was ten years too late, for the tithe-payers were now anticipating their total extinction. The strongly Protestant Evening Packet hoped however that landlords and rectors would proceed with tithe composition. In October a great fire destroyed much of both Houses of Parliament. Sessions then took place in the library of the House of Lords.  

[November 1834] In November 1834, Earl Spencer died, and Lord Althorpe his son consequently went to the Lords. Melbourne wished Russell to take his place in the Commons but the king would not consent. Instead, on 10 November 1834 he sent for Wellington, who advised him to send for Peel. The latter was abroad in Rome at the time so a messenger had to be dispatched to recall him. Melbourne knew that the Tories could command no majority, but he tendered his resignation. Wellington took over as interim Prime Minister. He was sworn in as Home Secretary and Prime Minister on 17 November, but did not appoint any other ministers. As the king insisted that all the other ministers resign, Wellington filled all the offices himself for three weeks.

When news of the dismissal of the ministry reached Dublin about 17 November the Orange faction became ecstatic. A General election was expected. O’Connell convoked a meeting in the Corn Exchange, and it was agreed to drop the pledge on Repeal. On 25 November he established the Anti-Tory Association. Sir Patrick Bellew was returned unopposed in a by-election in Louth. Several priests were active.  



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