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Chapter Six

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

Lord Liverpool I

(May l812 to February l820)  

Summary. Lord Liverpool, who was to be prime minister for fifteen years succeeded in putting together an administration determined to pursue the war with vigour. But cabinet ministers henceforth were allowed to vote as they liked on the Catholic question. Two Irishmen, Castlereagh as Foreign Secretary, and Wellington as the successful general, led the war to a victorious conclusion, and played a leading part in the Congress of Vienna that followed it. The disputes among the Catholics regarding Securities continued even after the matter had been decided by Rome. Robert Peel, the future great prime minister began his career as Irish Secretary and had to deal with two problem, the lack of a proper police force to deal with illicit distillation and a banking crisis and he applied his experience later in England. A model of state support for primary education was devised. A steamship crossed the Irish Sea, inaugurating the age of steam-driven travel.


Lord Liverpool and Robert Peel

The Question of Education

The Catholic Question

The End of the War and Poynter’s Appeal to Rome

The Quarantotti Rescript, the Genoese Letter, and Domestic Nomination

Peel as Irish Secretary


Lord Liverpool and Robert Peel           

[June 1812] By the middle of June 1812 Lord Liverpool had emerged as Prime Minister, a position he was to hold until his death fifteen years later. But before that happened, two Irishmen, the Marquis Wellesley and Lord Moira, had been asked by the Prince Regent to endeavour to form broad-based coalitions including leading Whigs like Lord Grenville. Though a very able, if at times lazy man, Wellesley found few in Parliament willing to serve under him. Moira secured the adhesion of Lord Liverpool, but difficulties arose over certain members of the royal household which, in fact, could easily have been settled if Sheridan had passed on a message to the Whigs concerning Lord Yarmouth, Lady Hertford's son. Moira gave up the attempt and was bitterly attacked by certain Irish Catholics (perhaps of the Keogh faction) for so doing. Moira accepted Wellesley's old position as Governor General of India. (He was very successful there and suppressed the Pindaris, a kind of corsairs on land, but he passed from Irish history.)

            Liverpool's cabinet has an undeserved reputation for reaction largely because of the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth's, treatment of the Radicals, but his legislation differed little from similar legislation passed by Pitt. A certain group of Romantic poets including Byron, Shelley, and Keats, delighted in lampooning Lord Castlereagh for reasons best known to themselves. Castlereagh always showed great courtesy to the Catholics and used his position as Leader of the House to make parliamentary time available to them. Wellesley remained out of office until l821, and Canning, too, for the moment, stayed out of office. Sheridan lost his seat in 1812, became an alcoholic, and died not long after.

            The Irish Government was virtually unchanged except for the fact that Wellesley-Pole resigned both offices. William Vesey Fitzgerald replaced him as Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer. (His father, James Fitzgerald, had been removed from office by Cornwallis and Castlereagh for opposing the Union, but he was himself a convinced unionist.) Young Robert Peel, who had entered Parliament as MP for the borough of Cashel some years earlier, the son of an English industrialist, became Irish Secretary. He had been a brilliant scholar, and he turned his attention to reading every document he could find dealing with Irish affairs. His knowledge of Ireland became and remained unrivalled. He always knew when O'Connell was tampering with or stretching the truth and so his contempt for him was unbounded. He strongly supported the continued exclusion of Catholics from Parliament for reasons of personal conviction. He came under William Gregory’s influence, and to some extent, deserved the nickname 'Orange' Peel given to him by O'Connell. But he was always his own man, and not anyone’s tool. Wellesley-Pole had changed his views on the Catholic Question and was now supporting his older brother, the marquis. Subsequently Liverpool offered him the position of Master of the Mint, and in that capacity he presided over the post-war reorganisation of the metallic currency.

            It is worth pausing for a moment to look at the names of various figures who came to the forefront of public life in Ireland about this time and who were to remain in the forefront almost until mid-century. There was William Conyngham Plunket, Sir John Newport, Sir Henry Parnell, the Duke of Wellington, Daniel O'Connell, Archbishop Murray, Frederick Conway, Sir Robert Peel, the Earl of Fingall, his son Lord Killeen, and Richard Lalor Sheil. Plunket, Murray, O'Connell, Newport, Parnell, and Conway had first-hand experiences of the breakdown of law and order in 1798. 

Peel’s first job in Ireland was to organise the Irish elections to secure a majority for the Government. Influencing elections chiefly involved promising favours to borough-owners. The number of voters in Irish counties was too large to be managed, and all Irish counties were regarded as 'independent'. Secret service money was in short supply and most of it was given to leading journalists who regarded it as a perquisite of their jobs. (In theory they were to supply information to the Government concerning secret conspiracies, if they found any such, and to refrain from attacking the Government. In practice, the Government got little in return, and Peel gradually discontinued the payments.) Election expenses were phenomenal, and no Irish Government could afford to contest even a single county. County members were very independent; borough members were under obligation to their patron.

            The year 1812 saw the earliest attempt by the Catholics to organise themselves as a denominational electoral bloc, and also the first active participation of Catholic political priests. This was eventually to lead to the decline of the Whigs in Ireland and the emergence of what was a Catholic Party in all but name under the direction of the clergy. But in the first half of the century the Catholic gentlemen normally supported the Whigs. Attempts were made in certain parts of Ireland to exact  'pledges' from the candidates that they would support Emancipation in return for Catholic support. Though it occurred in few constituencies, and also only a few priests were active in politics, to the year 1812 may be dated the origins of sectarianism in Irish politics. In this year too, the first attempts were made to circumvent the Government by 'opening-up' Irish boroughs. It was alleged that in many Irish boroughs the number of voters allowed to be registered was less than the number allowed in the various charters. It was not until the period of parliamentary reform, two decades later, that this point was carried; though sporadic efforts were made in various towns in the intervening years.

The General Election returned a majority of pro-Emancipation MPs. If the Prince Regent lent his support, such slight opposition as existed in the Lords could be overcome. There was widespread sympathy for the Catholic claims among Protestants in Ireland and in the rest of the United Kingdom. Almost immediately the Catholics began squandering this sympathy by squabbling, this time over alleged failures to support 'pledged' candidates. (Pledging was intensely disliked by most gentlemen aspiring to be MPs. When they accepted a seat in a 'pocket borough' they, of course, bound themselves to respect the owner's wishes on any points he insisted on, but as soon as it was feasible they transferred themselves to an 'independent' county. This allowed them to make up their minds after the debate in Parliament not before.) The attempt to 'pledge' candidates in this case was liable to lose more support than it gained. But because of the unreformed nature of Parliament, most men entering Parliament had to seek a seat from a borough-owner until they made a name for themselves. As noted earlier, young Robert Peel’s father, a rich Lancashire merchant, was able to purchase control of the borough of Cashel in Ireland, to get his son started. 

            The war in Spain was now going well. Wellington advanced into Spain and heavily defeated Marshal Marmont near Salamanca. It was at this time that Dr Patrick Curtis, the rector of the Irish College in Salamanca, was able to supply him with valuable information. The battle of Salamanca, or Arapiles (22 July 1812) made Wellington’s name known throughout Europe. He had met and defeated a powerful French army of veteran’s in the open field, and not in carefully prepared defensive positions. Wellington nearly over-reached himself. Madrid was captured on 12 August 1812 but an effort to take Burgos, a major fortress on the road to the French frontier, failed. At the last possible moment, on the 21st October, with superior French forces approaching, Wellington raised the siege. There ensued a race between him and the French who were trying to cut him off from his base in Portugal. If Wellington had failed to win the race his army would have been in dire trouble like Sir John Moore's at an earlier stage. But by the 18th November Wellington's British and Portuguese armies were securely back on the Portuguese frontier, and Wellington was beginning his preparations for the great advance of the 1813. At the other end of Europe, Napoleon also found himself out on a limb, but he delayed his retreat just too long. On the 19th October he left Moscow, and by the end of November the remnant of the Grande Arme'e was safe on the frontiers of Poland. One general had lost most of his army; the other had saved most of his. Both had to build up their forces. Napoleon virtually stripped Spain and Italy of French troops.  The War was now more than ever popular in Ireland, and volunteering from the militia continued at a high rate to match the increasing casualties as the impetus of the attack increased. (It was therefore a tactical blunder to try to attack the Government head-on through 'pledging' in 1812.) In 1813 a cousin of Daniel O'Connell, named Lieutenant O'Connell, was killed at the siege of San Sebastien. O'Connell was always proud of his cousin and of what he regarded the British and Irish army. Many other figures prominent in Irish politics at this time had close relatives in the army. (The term ‘British’ was introduced after the union between England and Scotland in 1707 as a neutral term to cover both ‘English’ and ‘Scottish’. Attempts were made to extend it again after 1800 to include ‘Irish’ but these attempts were unsuccessful. The idea of using the term ‘Imperial’ for the common army of the Empire did not antedate the Boer War at the very end of the nineteenth century.) 

            The domestic policies of the Irish Government changed very little from what they were when Wellesley-Pole was in charge. Though when Peel felt more confident in himself he changed many policies in detail. The Protestant Peel was shocked to hear that the Jesuits had opened a house in Kildare, but when he investigated he found no cause for alarm. Fr Peter Kenney SJ founded the house. Though the Jesuits were technically suppressed by the Pope at the time they managed to keep together. Peter Kenney studied in Sicily and was asked by the British commanders there to act as their interpreter in their attempt to rescue the Pope. The plot failed, but Fr Kenney then acted as an unofficial chaplain to the Irish Catholic troops in the island. When the Jesuit Order was restored in 1814, Archbishop Daniel Murray was one of the few non-Jesuits invited to the ceremony and celebration. [Top] 

The Question of Education 

            A decision had to be taken on the final Report of the Commissioners of Education Enquiry (1812). Their Report made several recommendations: (a) that no attempt should be made to use education as a means of influencing the religious beliefs of schoolchildren; (b) that all Irish schoolchildren should be educated together as far as possible in the same schools; (c) that education should have a religious component; (d) as far as possible religious instruction should be given in common with all the common doctrines of Christianity being taught in the time of common instruction; and (e) that the clergy of the various denominations would come to the school to teach the children of their own adherents their own particular doctrines (like Predestination or Transubstantiation ) at specified times. The influence of Joseph Lancaster is obvious.  

The aim of the Report was unambiguous, to promote and improve primary education, especially literacy in Ireland, and to educate all Irish children as far as possible together, so hopefully to end sectarian bitterness and strife. Until nationalists about mid-century began advocating a nationalist secular curriculum (to be taught to all Irish children together) there was no dispute with regard to the secular or 'literary' curriculum. Nor initially was there any dispute over the religious programme either. The Irish Government accepted the basic principles of the Report, and they formed the basis of all Government policies on education in Ireland for the next century. 

            There was no question at this date of the Government itself providing primary education. Primary education was left to private enterprise, and there were thousands of tiny schools throughout the eastern parts of the island. These were nominally Church of Ireland schools, but all this meant was that the teacher had received a licence from the Protestant rector of the parish to start a school. In many of these the education given was very poor. The school building or schoolroom was often a most rudimentary structure. Those in rural areas were nicknamed ‘hedge schools’. (Though William Carleton derived this term from the alleged fact that they were held under bushes in a hedge, it is more likely that it was transferred from hedge priest, an illiterate rural priest; see OED) The Report aimed merely at establishing principles to guide the approach of the Government towards education. It so happened that the question of providing good primary education for large numbers of children was then being widely discussed in Ireland and Britain. A group of Irish Protestant gentlemen formed a private education society in which the best principles of the Report and of Lancaster would be put into practice. The society became known as the Kildare Place Society from the location of its office in Dublin. 

Peel and Fitzgerald, recognising that this society fulfilled the recommendations of the Report, channelled Government aid to education through it. By 1830 this was amounting to about £30,000 a year. The Society made a point of training men and women teachers in model schools and providing excellent and cheap schoolbooks, and other teaching materials like slates. They also ensured the passing of the Endowed Schools (Ireland) Act (1813) left over by Wellesley-Pole.

            Though Ireland had from this early date an excellent system of publicly funded education, quite a large number of teachers did not adhere either to the Kildare Place Society or its successor, the National Board of Education. Those who refused to join were usually motivated by religious reasons. The quality of education they provided was often appalling, being little more than the ability to read the Bible or the Catechism. When after 1921 separate Government Departments were established in both Northern and Southern Ireland with responsibility for education, the reports of the inspectors regarding these schools were quite shocking. For example, all classes were held in a single room, with no provision for a play area, and but one single toilet. It was sometimes claimed that these hedge schools were official Catholic schools provided by the Catholic clergy for Catholic children. They were not. Nor was the rosy-tinted picture given of them by later scholars like Dowling reflected in contemporary accounts. 

 The public prosecutions of the Press for seditious libels continued. The Irish Attorney General, William Saurin, was the driving force behind them. It is unclear how much the religious issue was involved in this. Most of those prosecuted were Protestants, but almost certainly the writers of the offending articles were Catholic leaders like Denys Scully and O'Connell. The Government had no interest in prosecuting the publishers or printers. Such prosecutions were undertaken only to flush out the actual 'agitators'. None of the principals ever came forward and the publishers and printers were sent to prison. Nor were they ever reimbursed for their expenses or compensated for their losses. Frederick Conway, brought into the Dublin Evening Post to save it from further trouble, realised that O'Connell just used other people as tools. Nor is it surprising that several journalists took to studying to become barristers. [Top] 

The Catholic Question 

            The Catholic Question was the burning topic of the hour. Canning, Castlereagh, and the Whig leaders were determined to get an emancipation Bill passed. In June of 1812, before Parliament was dissolved, Canning brought a motion into the Commons favouring Emancipation in principle. A few days before the debate was due the Catholics in Dublin held a public meeting. A small committee met the previous day to draft the resolutions and determine who should propose and second each. Before the main meeting some persons substituted another set of motions of their own. The Catholic Secretary, Edward Hay, was in London. At the meeting, the first speaker, who happened to be Lord Killeen, asked O'Connell to read out the motions. He did so in a mumbled tone ‘like a clerk of court administering the oath’. One of the resolutions, known afterwards as the 'Witchery Resolution' was fiercely critical of the Prince Regent. It contained phrases like ‘…the fatal witchery of an unworthy secret influence…that to this impure source we trace but too distinctly our baffled hopes…the blandishments of a too luxurious court can hazard the safety of a people for ill-timed courtly compliments.’ There was uproar when the text of the resolutions appeared in the newspapers the following day and Canning felt like withdrawing his motion. He was, however, persuaded to change his mind. It was never discovered who made the substitution. O'Connell was unaware of it, and Edward Hay suspected Scully, probably correctly (DEP 13 July 1819).

In the event, Canning's motion passed the Commons with a majority of 129 votes, and Wellesley's parallel motion in the Lords was defeated by only one vote. As already noted, the General Election confirmed the majority for the Catholics. 

            The stage was now set for the introduction of a Bill the following year. Grattan, Plunket, and some other barristers were asked to draft an Emancipation Bill. Canning and Castlereagh planned to bring in two separate Bills, one on Emancipation and the other on the Securities, and then to amalgamate them. (The reason for this procedure was that the voting on the First Reading of a Bill does not allow discussion of detail, but is only regarding the principle of the Bill. To allow two discussions on two different principles, two Bills must be introduced.) Grattan and his friends were concerned only with the Emancipation Bill; Canning and Castlereagh dealt with the other Bill themselves.  

They consulted Charles Butler on certain points. This proved a tactical mistake, for Dr. Milner suspected Butler of trying to promote Gallicanism in Britain. (Gallicanism was a theological theory common in France, critical of papal claims, which was not acceptable to Rome, though not formally condemned by any Church Council.) When Milner went to Rome he accused his fellow bishops of trying to introduce Gallicanism into England. The periodical with which Milner associated himself was called The Orthodox Journal, the implication being that Butler's theology was heterodox. Milner was now definitely opposed to the veto, and the Irish bishops always backed Milner. The English bishops were now led by the moderate Dr. William Poynter, who had succeeded Dr. John Douglass as Vicar Apostolic of the London District in 1812, and who disapproved of Milner’s confrontational attitude towards his opponents. In 1815 he had to defend himself and the other Vicars Apostolic in Rome against charges made against them by Milner. Butler published his defence without his knowledge. 

            [1813] The Emancipation Bill (1813) was brought into the Commons by Grattan on the 25th February and given its First Reading. Not until the beginning of May did word reach Archbishop Troy in Dublin with the details of the Securities Bill. The essential point in the Securities Bill was that the king would appoint Commissioners to whom the names of all those priests proposed for bishoprics would be submitted. If they objected to a particular name on the grounds of loyalty the king could veto that name. Troy consulted the priests of his diocese and they rejected the proposed Bill. Troy then communicated word of this rejection to Fingall. The Earl of Fingall was the highest-ranking Catholic layman in Ireland, and had a seat on the Board of Trustees of Maynooth for administering the grant to the Royal College of Maynooth. As the Protestant trustees absented themselves from meetings of the trustees unless they were specifically invited to attend, the Earl of Fingall chaired the meetings. It was assumed on all sides that a similar arrangement regarding to episcopal appointments would be arrived at. Butler himself considered the Board a mere formality. Milner, however circulated a pamphlet in which he stated that the proposed securities were totally opposed to Catholic principles.

            The precise attitude of the various Catholic groups regarding the Securities is not always easy to determine. It was common ground that they were undesirable. It was also reasonably common ground that such concessions could lawfully be made by the Pope. Milner's total intransigence seems to have stemmed from his conviction that Butler was aiming at introducing Gallicanism. The 'Vetoist' party in Ireland seems to have taken Butler's view that the Securities were a mere formality. This view seems to have been shared by Troy, and also more surprisingly, by O'Connell. O'Connell was in some ways a prisoner of his own rhetoric and his own faction. But he made repeated attempts to bring both sides together. In 1823 when he got together with Shiel the issue was tacitly dropped, and then he agreed without question to the 'wings' i.e. the annexed Securities. There were some among the bishops, among the diocesan clergy, and among the laity, who were extremely hostile to any extension of royal authority. Among these at the time was the coadjutor archbishop of Dublin, Dr Murray, usually a most conciliating figure. Attempts to contact the Pope in France had failed, but communication with Rome was now easier. When leaving Rome, the Pope left Monsignor John Baptist Quarantotti, the Secretary of Propaganda, whom he advanced to be Pro-Prefect of Propaganda, in charge with full papal powers in all ordinary matters. Dr. Concanen, the representative of the Irish bishops had died, so in 1812, the English and Scottish Vicars Apostolic had appointed the Rev. Paul MacPherson, the former rector of the Scots College in Rome as their agent, and later in that year he returned to live in Rome (Ward).

            The Committee of the House of Commons met on 24 May 1813.  The opponents of the Bill seized on Milner's pamphlet to attack it. An amendment was introduced to exclude Catholics from Parliament, and was carried. Now, by the word 'Emancipation' was principally meant the admission of Catholic gentlemen to Parliament. Having lost this point Canning withdrew his Bill, though afterwards he regretted his haste. Milner claimed credit for defeating the Bill and nobody contradicted him. Grattan promised to try again the following year, but the Whig leaders refused co-operation until Milner was silenced. Canning had an ailing child whom he wished to take to a sunnier climate and so he accepted from Liverpool the post of ambassador in Lisbon. [Top]

The End of the War and Poynter’s Appeal to Rome 

            Meanwhile on the Continent the situation was changing almost hourly. A second attempt by the Royal Navy to rescue the Pope failed because Napoleon had had him removed to the palace of Fontainbleau near Paris. In the spring of 1813, following Wellington’s victory near Salamanca, Castlereagh put together the Fourth Coalition, consisting of the United Kingdom, Russia, and Prussia. Wellington in Spain had the British, Portuguese, and Spanish armies under his control. The Russians and Prussians were massing in eastern Europe. Leaving what he considered sufficient troops to block Wellington's advance in Spain Napoleon stripped most of the remaining French troops from Spain and Italy to meet the threat in Central Europe. At the beginning of May, while Canning's Bill was in progress, Napoleon won two victories over the allies in Germany and a truce was declared. But simultaneously Wellington was starting one of the most successful and decisive campaigns ever fought by a British army. He no longer had to fear envelopment by enormously superior French forces, so he marched straight for the frontier. The French evacuated Burgos and concentrated their forces at Vitoria in the Basque country. Here in June 1813 Wellington smashed the main French army under Napoleon’s brother, King Joseph Bonaparte. On hearing of the victory the Allies in central Europe broke off the truce, and they were joined by the Austrians and then by the Swedes. An Austrian force with a small British contingent advanced almost unhindered through northern Italy to join with Wellington's proposed invasion of France from the south. The French army now under Marshal Soult guarding the passes of the Pyrenees fought stubbornly, and it was not until early in 1814 that Wellington was able to advance into France.  

[1814] The winter in 1813-1814 was one of extraordinary severity, as Castlereagh travelled across Europe to co-ordinate matters with the Allies. The sum of £10,000 was collected to relieve the poor in Dublin. Thick snow blanketed the country. Many of the mailcoaches could not run. All the canals and docks were frozen solid, and football was played on the ice. It was considered the worst winter since 1739. A boat was trapped in the ice in Belfast Lough a mile from the quay at Belfast. The river Suir was frozen over above the bridge at Waterford. At Derry, the Foyle was frozen over. By 2 February, the mailcoach roads had been cleared of snow to allow the coaches to run again (SNL passim).

            About the middle of the summer of 1813 therefore it became apparent that communication with the city of Rome could be freely resumed. The moderate Vicar Apostolic of the London District, Dr Poynter, wished to put specific questions to the Holy See with regard to what could, and could not, be conceded. On receiving Poynter's queries Quarantotti followed procedure and set up a commission of theologians to decide and reply. The commission met in February 1814 and issued two rescripts (responses). One asked the assistance of the British Government in securing the restoration of the Papal States; the other granted the royal veto and a right of inspection of documents, but not the exequatur, the right to suppress them. By the time the rescripts were engrossed and sealed Napoleon had released the Pope. The Allied armies advancing from the east entered Paris on 31 March 1814 while Soult was still blocking Wellington in the south. Napoleon abdicated on 6th April. The Pope was making his way virtually penniless back to Rome when he met the British contingent with the Austrian army near Modena. The leader of the contingent, Lord William Bentinck, provided the Pope with sufficient cash to support himself until the papal treasury was re-established. The Pope informed him verbally of the contents of the Quarantotti Rescript which had his full approval. Cardinal Consalvi, the papal Secretary of State (Prime Minister) sought out Castlereagh who had gone over to the Continent, and established a friendly relationship with him. Consalvi, after the abdication of Napoleon, followed the kings of Russia and Prussia to London where the Prince Regent warmly welcomed him. Consalvi was the first cardinal to land in Britain for centuries. As the Pope could not afford the cost of transporting the looted treasures of the Church back from France the Regent had them sent back at his own expense. By his action Poynter had stolen a march on Milner and the Irish bishops. A separate copy of the Rescript was also sent to the British Government.

            After the failure of Canning's bill the usual squabbles broke out among the Catholics in Ireland, and as usual the precise grounds of the disputes are vague. At one point O'Connell virtually accused the Earl of Fingall of lying, a statement which was the equivalent of a challenge to a duel. Saurin indicted the unfortunate John Magee, owner of the Dublin Evening Post again, and O'Connell said (in court) that only his respect for the law prevented him from physically chastising the Attorney General. This was again the equivalent to a challenge to a duel, but Saurin did not respond either. Magee, ill advised, printed O'Connell's speech for his defence and had his sentence doubled for aggravation of the original offence. Frederick Conway was hastily installed as editor to prevent further disasters, and O'Connell, in the spring of 1814, was dropped by the defence. His action was totally unprofessional and inexcusable. The Government later released Magee, but O’Connell did nothing to assist him. Conway never forgot the episode. The Earl of Donoughmore and Grattan refused to help the Catholics until they had patched up their differences. [Top] 

The Quarantotti Rescript, the Genoese Letter, and Domestic Nomination.           

On 26 April 1814 MacPherson arrived with the Rescript in London where Poynter translated and published it. Poynter immediately informed Archbishop Troy. In early May 1814 the text of the Quarantotti Rescript reached Dublin, and the Latin text was published in Saunders’ Newsletter on 7 May. Reports of verbal communication to Lord William Bentinck reached Dublin at the same time. The Rescript further ordered the Catholics to accept the form of Canning’s Bill of the preceding year, ‘with a grateful heart’. O'Connell declared that he would rather be guided by Constantinople than Rome. In some dioceses the priests met and rejected the Rescript. Archbishop Troy considered the debate closed but other bishops did not. The Irish bishops sent Archbishop Murray to Rome to explain their objections to the Pope in person. It was on this occasion that he was present at the restoration of the Jesuit Order. Milner too visited Rome to expose the alleged Gallicanism of the English Catholics. The Pope withdrew the Rescript for further consideration and it was never re-imposed, but only because no request for it came from the British Government. (When Peel and Wellington introduced their Emancipation Bill in 1829 no securities were asked for.)  The English Vicars Apostolic sent Poynter after Milner to clear their name. The Pope now appointed bishops to the seven Irish sees that had become vacant since 1809. 

            [1815] Napoleon had abdicated on 6 April 1814 and confined to the island of Elba. When all this was going on Napoleon escaped from Elba (26 February 1815) and began the 'Hundred Days'. His former marshal, Murat, now king of Naples, but due to be deposed, joined him and marched northward through the Papal States. The Pope left Rome about the 20 March, at the beginning of Holy Week and spent Easter Sunday at Florence. There was a sudden exodus of British visitors from Rome, including Princess Caroline of Brunswick (Princess of Wales), and the Marquis and Marchioness of Conyngham (Diario di Roma, March 1815). Milner and Poynter followed the Pope north. Edward Cooke, formerly Under-secretary in Ireland under Castlereagh, and now Under-secretary of the Foreign Office under him, arrived to present the Government’s view. The Grand Duke of Tuscany left his capital, Florence to join the Austrians. The Pope arrived and sought shelter with the British forces stationed at Genoa in the north of Italy on the 3 April. It was the only time in history that the redcoats formed a papal guard. The Princess of Wales called on him. As most of the cardinals were present in Genoa the Pope convened a special congregation of cardinals to consider the matter. As Ward observed, they had nothing else to do. At Genoa he gave his reply to Dr. Poynter in what was called the 'Genoese letter', reaffirming the Quarantotti Rescript. Neither Poynter nor Troy published the letter at the time and its contents remained unknown for the moment. Poynter left Genoa on 28 April 1815, crossed into Austria via the Brenner Pass and passed through Brussels six days before Waterloo. (Ward notes that the cost of travelling to Rome by public coach was about £40 which would be about £1600 in today’s money.) The bishops customarily did not publish Roman documents that they regarded as sent for their own information only, pending formal publication by the Holy See. Murat occupied Florence briefly, but then withdrew the Neapolitan army towards the south. He was heavily defeated by the Austrians at Tolentino, captured and shot. Following this brief and exciting interlude, the Pope left Genoa on 18 May to return to Rome, having been absent from his city for two months. Discussions continued at Vienna between Castlereagh and Consalvi on various details of the matter. Both assumed that a new Emancipation Bill would soon be passed. The likelihood is that it would have been passed if backed at that point by Castlereagh and Wellington, and the Irish agreed to accept the Securities.

            The issue of the Securities and the Veto more or less came to an end with this agreement, though Canning, when he became Prime Minister, intended reviving it. He died before he could do anything about it, while his successor, Goderich, was anxious not to be involved. Peel argued against any official recognition of the papacy, so the Securities were dropped from his Emancipation Act. But the question can still be asked why the question of Securities arose in the first place. It was obvious that the loyalty to the crown of the Catholic gentlemen seeking admission to Parliament was unquestionable. So too was the loyalty of the bishops. But several Catholic priests had joined the rebels in 1798. Most of these, it is true, were priests who were caught up in the great mass hysteria which characterized the rebellion in Wexford, where great drunken mobs of men and women followed the rebel ‘army’ around. The only priest of note involved with the United Irishmen was the Rev. James O’Coigly, the associate of Arthur O’Connor. The only Catholic gentleman of note still residing in Ireland was Arthur’s brother, Roger O’Connor, who bought the Marquis Wellesley’s family home as an Irish residence for Napoleon. He was put on trial for allegedly robbing a mailcoach. Somewhat later a lone speaker in the Catholic Association praised Napoleon, but was shouted down. Rather it was in America that republican sentiments were fostered. In 1818, Saunders Newsletter (18 May 1818) quoted the National Advocate of New York that toasts were being drunk to the memory of Robert Emmett, Wolfe Tone, Lord Edward Fitzgerald and ‘other departed heroes’. But it is as likely that these toasts were being drunk by Protestants. Certainly a rosy-tinted mythology regarding ‘Ninety Eight’ which O’Connell was at pains to debunk, had already grown up in the New World. It may just be that the idea of securities were introduced, in order to persuade George III to allow the Bill to pass, and was just kept on until it was dropped by Peel who always disliked the idea. 

In June 1815 Napoleon struck at the juncture of the British and Prussian armies in Belgium hoping to defeat them separately. But Wellington maintained contact with the Prussians and defeated him at Waterloo on 18 June 1815. News of the victory reached Dublin on Saturday 24 June, too late to be reported in Saunders’ Newsletter on that day. The first account of the battle appeared on Monday 26th (SNL 26 June 1815). 

            Archbishop Murray had left Rome in October 1814, while the Pope detained Milner. There seems to have been a strong feeling among the cardinals that Milner should be detained permanently, for one reason or another, permanently in Rome. Murray was delayed for several weeks in Paris trying to sort out the question of the endowments of the Irish College which had been confiscated during the Revolution. The restored king eventually appointed a commission to deal with these. He arrived back in Dublin in February 1815, and immediately agreed to receive a delegation of gentlemen who were anxious to find out what he had achieved. He described the situation in Rome and the Pope’s views, and the fact that he was considering the views of the Irish. Murray was engaged at this time in preparing for the construction of a Catholic cathedral in Dublin, and in the formation of a new religious Order modelled on the French Sisters of Charity, who would perform charitable works outside their convents. It was to be called the Irish Sisters of Charity. In August 1815 he went to the Bar Convent in York to bring back the first Sisters who had just completed their noviciate. On 28 March 1815 the foundation stone of the new Metropolitan Church was laid by Archbishop Troy, in the presence of the Earl of Fingall, and other Irish Catholic lords. In September 1816 the first Sisters walked the streets in their habits. 

The Irish bishops sent Archbishop Murray back to Rome accompanied by Bishop Murphy of Cork. They arrived in October 1815 but the Pope did not change his mind. O'Connell's faction also wished to send a delegate of their own but had difficulty in finding anyone willing. A rather rustic friar named Fr Richard Hayes undertook the mission, but his uncouth language and unecclesiastical dress damaged his mission. (Members of religious orders did not wear their habit in Ireland, but he could easily have obtained one in Rome.) He did manage to secure a copy of the Genoese Letter and published it. When he finally told the Pope that Cardinal Consalvi was accepting bribes from the British Government the Pope lost patience and he was ordered to return to his monastery. When he failed to leave promptly the papal gendarmes (21 May 1817) escorted him to the frontier. In 1817, the Irish bishops dropped Milner as their agent in London, and ceased writing to him. By the beginning of 1818 the Catholic Board was more or less extinct. In 1818 Cardinal Litta wrote to Troy rejecting any scheme of Domestic Nomination, i.e. such as would exclude a role for the Pope. He noted that the spirit in which the agitation was being carried on made it less likely for the Holy See to agree to any change. As usual, these events were faithfully recorded in the Dublin Protestant newspapers that seemed to be fascinated with Catholic affairs. 

It is not very obvious at this date why so many of the Irish Catholic bishops, clergy, and laymen, rejected the Quarantotti Rescript and the Genoese Letter. There was no question of any error in Catholic doctrine, or breach of discipline. The matter had been carefully considered by the theologians in Rome, and endorsed after full consultation by the Pope. Nor was there any objection in principle to giving certain limited powers to a monarch who was not persecuting the Catholics, but on the other hand had granted complete freedom of worship. Nor was the manner of choosing bishops in Ireland fixed at that time, and a uniform manner of proceeding, approved by Rome was long over-due. Nor did laymen like the Earl of Fingall who would presumably chair any of the examining committees object. Nor apparently did O’Connell object. Nor was it interfering with the struggle to get Catholics into Parliament; on the contrary it was assisting it. The Irish Catholic bishops had freely conceded rights to the crown in their discussions with Castlereagh in 1799. A change of mind of the Irish bishops was clearly indicated by the ‘inexpediency motion’ of 14 September 1808, and may have been influenced by the fall of the Ministry of all the Talents’, or by the imprisonment of the Pope. It is too early to invoke Catholic nationalism. No doubt Milner played a considerable part in engaging the help of the Irish bishops in his struggle with Charles Butler. For Milner the chief objection would have been that the scrutiny committees would have been composed of laymen, including Charles Butler, a person in his opinion of doubtful orthodoxy. When he read the Rescript Troy wrote to Milner, Rescripta Roma venerunt, causa finita est; utinam finiatur et error. (The Rescipts have come from Rome; the case is finished; would that the error too was finished.) The error presumably was giving in to Gallicanism. O’Connell suspected that the Irish bishops wished episcopal nominations confined to themselves, and he was probably right. Troy certainly did not believe that the ‘inexpediency motion was meant to be permanent, but admitted later that a strong popular feeling had grown up in Ireland against any concession to the crown, a typically Whig sentiment. 

For the next couple of years the two factions continued to meet separately, and the willing Sir Henry Parnell tried to assist them. With the withdrawal of the aristocratic faction led by the Earl of Fingall the financial situation of the lay Catholics deteriorated. Debts amounted to nearly £4,000 (over £100,000 nowadays) but O'Connell refused to make a collection presumably on the grounds that the 'Vetoists' would demand concessions before contributing. George Fitzpatrick, a bookseller, instituted legal proceedings for debt against Edward Hay to try to get his bills paid. 'Honest' Jack Lawless brought up the matter frequently, as he believed that lawful debts should be paid, and also that the publishers in prison should be re-imbursed. (His nickname was a joke of O'Connell’s).  In 1817 Thomas Wyse and Nicholas Ball, travelling on the Continent, put the case of the Vetoists to the Pope. In 1819 a quarrel broke out between O'Connell and Edward Hay, seemingly over a financial matter. Hay resigned from the position of Catholic Secretary and the barrister Purcell O’Gorman replaced him. Hay died a few years after this in extreme poverty. [Top] 

Peel as Irish Secretary 

            It was necessary to advance to 1819 to keep this phase of Catholic affairs that stretched over several years together. We must now to return to 1813 to deal with the domestic policies of Peel and Fitzgerald. It was becoming clear that the old ways were not going to return after the War. In England, in 1812, groups of workers called Luddites broke up new machinery. In Irish industry machinery was still largely confined to the cotton industry, and the Linen Board was still distributing hand-powered spinning wheels. Not until about 1830 was machinery for the linen industry introduced into Belfast. But those who read the papers were aware that a successful steamboat was running in Scotland. A steamboat crossed the Irish Sea in l816 and its captain was immediately summoned before Sir Henry Parnell's Holyhead Road Committee to give evidence about the suitability of steamboats to the open conditions of the Irish Sea. Steam packets began to operate on the Irish Sea almost immediately but it was several years before they could operate through the winter storms. In April 1814, the stagecoach from Dublin to Cork carrying the news of Napoleon’s abdication completed the journey in 22 hours cutting four hours off the scheduled time. The hundred-mile journey to Belfast could be completed in daylight. 

             An attempt to cross the Irish Sea by balloon failed in 1812 but another effort in 1817 was successful. No practical commercial use was found for aircraft until after the invention of the internal combustion engine which was light in proportion to its power. The first bicycle appeared in Ireland in 1819. Saunders’ Newsletter provided illustrations of the new models, and also of the new steamships. MacAdam was developing his technique of putting a good surface on roads, but the cycling did not become popular until the process of vulcanizing rubber (i.e. adding sulphur to raw rubber to give it hardness) was developed twenty years later. (The great development of cycling occurred after 1888 when the Belfast doctor, John Boyd Dunlop, invented the pneumatic tyre.) On the improved roads however the regular stagecoaches were now reaching all the major towns from Dublin inside one day. The development of water transport remained the chief priority. Several canals were being improved or lengthened. It was possible (just) to sail from Carrick-on-Shannon to Dublin via the Shannon and the Grand Canal, but the Government completed the more northerly Royal Canal to the Shannon, the better to open up the North West. A proposal came before the Corporation of Dublin for a Bill to allow the lighting of the streets with gas. It was objected that the livelihood of 6,000 Irish fishermen who supplied the fish oil would be destroyed. Whitworth, the Lord Lieutenant, laid the foundation stone of the Wellington Memorial in the Phoenix Park on 18 June 1817. This reminds us once again that Ireland was a strongly Protestant country in the first half of the nineteenth century. Protestants owned most of the wealth, and paid most of the taxes. The vast majority of the men did not get the vote until much later in the century. The centre of gravity of Dublin was moving to the north of the river. Against strong protests the site for a new General Post Office was selected north of the river in 1815 and was opened in January 1818. It was not far from the new Catholic cathedral. The merchants, still mostly south of the river, objected to the long walk. 

            Irish agriculture had profited greatly from the War. But it became clear that the ending of the military contracts would bring a slump. Farming methods had been modernised on many Irish farms, but there was still a considerable way to go. About the same time as Canning's Bill, Sir Henry Parnell had another parliamentary committee established to consider how the transition to peace conditions should best be managed. It called many witnesses who described the present state of Irish farming. It reported that tillage was rapidly increasing, and now amounted to a quarter of all farmed land. If the price were right Ireland could supply all the corn needed in the United Kingdom and no imports would be needed. The chief recommendation was that in order to allow the further improvement of Irish farms the price of corn should be kept high in the immediate post-war period (SNL 10, 11 June 1813). In 1814 another committee was set up to consider petitions to Parliament on the subject, and the principle recommended was enshrined in the Corn Laws (1815). 

 With regard to the Irish Government, in 1813 Earl Whitworth succeeded the Duke of Richmond. In 1814 Peel persuaded Whitworth to suppress the Catholic Board though it was in fact virtually extinct. American privateers appeared in the Irish Sea to prey on British and Irish shipping. The war with America lasted from 1812 to 1814. It is chiefly remembered in Ireland for the fact that Major General Robert Ross of Rostrevor, county Down burned the White House in Washington D.C. Wellington’s brother-in-law, Edward Pakenham was killed at New Orleans (Longford). Richmond settled with his family in Brussels, where famously Wellington delayed at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball until well after dark to deceive French agents. He ordered his officers to be ready to start at 5 a.m. the following morning. 

  In 1814 there occurred an event which was to affect the young and inexperienced Peel for the rest of his life. This was the collapse of Baron Ffrench’s bank in Galway. Lord Ffench (always spelt with two ‘f’s) was one of the leading Catholic peers, and his family owned the only large bank at that time in Connaught. Unlike in Scotland where the laws favoured joint-stock banks, the laws in Ireland, such as they were, prohibited them. Banking in Ireland was largely unregulated except for stipulations that a man engaged in a branch of trade could not own a bank, nor could any bank have more than six partners. An exception was made for the Bank of Ireland, which was banker to the Irish Treasury. The consequences were that almost anyone could start up a bank and run it as he liked. There were no restrictions on the amount of lending. The basic principle of banking is that a banker accepts deposits that he promises to return on demand. He then lets out the same sum to several other people at the same time taking interest from each of them. He knows that when people deposit their money they rarely withdraw the whole of it at once, and very rarely will all the depositors demand all their deposit s at the same time, The prudent banker therefore covers all his liabilities with assets, and keeps a sufficient store of cash at hand in the bank to cover all likely demands for withdrawals. Newport’s Bank in Waterford, managed by Sir John Newport’s family, was successful for about a century. (American banks within each state were conducted on similar lines until the Great Wall Street crash in 1929.) The assets of the bankers tended to be in land, the family estates, but land cannot usually be turned into cash overnight. Much of the loans of Irish banks was in the form of paper money, which basically were printed promises to pay in gold or silver the amount stated, whether five shillings, ten shillings, or one pound. These notes were passed from hand to hand, and used for ordinary transactions. Each holder of the notes expected that if he presented his note at the bank he would be paid in metal currency. The notes issued by Ffrench’s bank were almost the sole form of money in the whole province of Connaught. If something triggered a 'run‘ on the bank, and every depositor started demanding his money back the bank would stop paying out. The first people to take the banker to court would be paid first. If the bank’s assets were adequate all would eventually be paid. If they were not those who put in their claims last got nothing. 

It happened in 1814 that Ffrench’s bank had expected to receive a particular large lodgement on a certain date, 27 June 1814, and so made no further provision to meet demands. The lodgement was not in fact made, and the tellers in the bank had to inform the runners from other banks that they had no funds to pay out that day. The credit of the bank totally collapsed, so nobody would lend them money or deposit money. The bank closed its doors the following day. Those holding the bank’s notes all over Connaught found that nobody would accept them, and trade in the province virtually came to a halt. Small tenant farmers for example would accumulate the notes to pay their rent at half-yearly intervals, and then found their notes were unacceptable. . (Nicholas Mahon, a Dublin Catholic merchant filed a suit of bankruptcy against the bank on the 3rd August to get possession of the partners’ assets. Baron Ffrench committed suicide on 9 December. The case was heard on 15 December, and the jury returned special verdicts against five of the six partners but he failed in his main object because the jury did not convict all six. He was awarded six pennies costs and six pennies in damages.) 

            Sir John Newport, ever anxious to get exact statistics, persuaded the Government to hold the first Irish census in 1813. Enumeration was entrusted to the unreformed baronial constabulary and nobody had much faith in their efforts. (In 1821 the census was placed in the hands of a competent statistician.) As the War was clearly coming to an end the Irish coinage was reminted. In 1815 the militia was disbanded, never to be called out again as a local militia. Some units had been in continuous existence for twenty two years, and some had fought as far away as Egypt. (Following numerous reforms in the second half of the century the county militias were joined to regular army regiments. The South Down Militia ‘the Terror of the Land’ according to the old song, for example, became the 5th battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles and were embodied during the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, the Boer War, and the First World War Weekly Northern Whig 1 Nov. 1924.) 

In 1815 Fitzgerald had a Bill passed authorising the construction of an 'asylum harbour' at Dunleary just outside the mouth of the river of Dublin, for ships which, because of the contrary winds, could not reach the river. Work on it commenced in May 1817. It was designed, and the construction supervised by John Rennie. In 1815 work finally commenced on the Holyhead Road linking the packet station at Holyhead in Wales with London. It was the first trunk road to be planned in Britain since Roman times. It is still the principal route (the A5) linking Dublin with London, and is the great monument to Sir Henry Parnell. It was 288 miles long, and was divided into 23 stages. Thomas Telford designed the bridges and introduced technological innovation by carrying a suspension bridge over the Menai Straits. (It has since been strengthened to carry the weight of modern traffic.) Wellesley-Pole’s re-minted coinage came into force on 3 February 1817. It was he who issued the gold sovereign. 

            Agrarian crime broke out again, and from now until 1848 was never absent for long. Those engaged in such pursuits became known generically as 'Ribbonmen', it being said that they wore special ribbons to distinguish themselves at night. In November 1816 in county Louth occurred the agrarian atrocity immortalized by William Carleton in ‘Wildgoose Lodge’. (Before setting out to murder their victims, the conspirators met at night in the Catholic chapel. The old priest was very deaf and never heard them.) Rather than re-introduce the Insurrection Act Peel thought that special forces of policemen could be used. So he introduced his Irish Police Act (1814). This enabled the Lord Lieutenant to pick trained men from the Dublin Metropolitan Police and send them into a disturbed district, charging the costs onto the rates in that district. He was however compelled to introduce a modified Insurrection Act (1814) as well. These special police forces were nicknamed the 'peelers' to distinguish them from the baronial police, the 'barnies'. (Baronies were divisions of counties. They usually had a force of about twenty policemen, but many of them were elderly.) Peel also raised the authorised salary for the police to enable the counties to attract more able men. There were complaints about brutality by the soldiers engaged in searching for illicit distillation, so Peel re-introduced the Townland Fines Act. An endeavour was made to legalize the industry by licensing small stills. This measure had great success in the Highlands of Scotland but proved a failure in Ireland. Finally the Excise Surveyors were empowered to recruit for themselves a Revenue Police. 

            Despite the Corn Laws a massive but short-lived slump hit the Irish economy in 1815. Ireland did not suffer as badly as England and by 1817 the exports of livestock were nearly back to their wartime level. From that point onwards exports increased continuously until 1914. Despite sporadic agrarian crime Ireland was not disturbed in the post-war period in the way the industrial districts of England were, nor was there any agitation by the 'radicals'. Habeas Corpus was not suspended in Ireland, nor does it seem that Sidmouth's 'Six Acts' applied to Ireland either, though there is some doubt about this. In January 1817 the magistrates in Louth requested the application of the Insurrection Act to their county, and the baronies of Ardee, Louth, and Upper and Lower Dundalk were proclaimed.  Later in the year Peel extended the Insurrection Act for one year. He noted that the Act was in force only in Louth, Tipperary, and Limerick. During the period of economic hardship in England, an Act called the 'Sturges Bourne Act' was passed in 1818 that allowed English parishes to send pauper Irishmen back to their native parishes.  Irish labour could migrate freely to England that had a poor law from Ireland that had not. This was causing some resentment in England. 

            [1816] In 1816 there was a widespread failure of the potato. This was not caused by blight, and up to this the potato was regarded as a reliable crop. (A volcanic explosion at Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 threw enormous volumes of dust into the atmosphere, and it is considered that the wintry weather that affected the Northern Hemisphere in 1816 was a direct result.) People began to discuss the possibility of assisted emigration. (The lands in South Africa newly acquired from the Dutch were considered, but an attempt from England in 1820 to found a colony at Grahamstown almost proved a costly and disastrous failure. When Scottish landowners tried to resettle their tenants on good lands in Canada they were denounced on all sides, but their re-settlements proved successful.)

[1817] Distress was widespread throughout the United Kingdom so an Act was passed (May 1817) authorising the Government to make advances of loans to the counties and other bodies for public works. There were food riots in Dublin. Rice was again imported to feed the poor in Dublin. As fever always followed famine a Fever Hospitals Act (1818) was passed to facilitate the construction of fever hospitals. Unconnected with this, but in the same spirit, an Act was passed to facilitate the construction of lunatic 'asylums' to which the lunatics could be removed from the gaols. The Act remained largely a dead letter until a decade later when the Government returned to the problem. Almost unnoticed in 1817 was passed the Catholic Officers Act (1817) to allow those promoted during the War to claim their pensions. It was the very Act that caused the downfall of the Talents Ministry. In 1816 the two National Debts reached the proportions agreed by the Act of Union (1800) and the two Exchequers were amalgamated on 5 January 1817. Fitzgerald the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer did not immediately get another office. 

            In 1817 Whitworth retired and was replaced by Earl Talbot. The following year Peel himself retired to the backbenches, and was succeeded by Charles Grant. He had learned a great deal and had come to maturity in Ireland and his experiences were to mark his policies both in England and in Ireland until his death. 

            [1819] In 1819 a great Protestant meeting was held in Dublin to advocate Emancipation for the Catholics. In that year too the Pope appointed two Irish bishops at the same time, Archbishop Patrick Curtis of Armagh and James Warren Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin. When Curtis's name was being sent to Rome he requested an endorsement from Wellington which was courteously given. They were men of conciliatory disposition and with Archbishop Murray were to lead the Catholic Church in Ireland for the next fifteen years. Sir Henry Parnell's constituency lay in Doyle's diocese and they were men of kindred spirit and corresponded frequently with each other. Richard Lalor Sheil, another conciliator, returned to Ireland from London where he had been writing for the stage. 

In February 1820 the old king, George III, finally died.          



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