DES KEENAN'S BOOKS ON IRISH HISTORY online version
1800-1850 LINKS TO INDIVIDUAL CHAPTERS
CLICK 1800-1850 TO RETURN TO BOOK LIST; CLICK Home Page TO RETURN TO Home Page
[Ireland 1800-1850 Copyright
© 2001 by Desmond Keenan . Book
. Bookavailable from Xlibris.com and Amazon.com]
(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.
The Tithe Bill (1834)
[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.
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]
 The reformed Parliament
started sitting on
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
The Tithe Bill (1834)
 Parliament was recalled on
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.
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.
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
[July 1834] In
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.
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
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.
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) .
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.
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.