By: Andrew Hove
The fight for freedom of religion has been waged on many different platforms, by many different people, in many different countries, across the course of history. A man in Ireland named Daniel O’Connell fought to regain the rights of his fellow Roman Catholics. He spent his entire life trying to bring the Catholic church in Ireland back to the glory days before religious oppression. Called “arguably the most intensely disparaged and celebrated Irish political figure of the nineteenth century,” (Foster, 1989 pg 295-302) O’Connell gained the respect of the entire Roman Catholic community when he created the Catholic Association. O’Connell, ...view middle of the document...
The Catholic Association worked for the members or tenants. All the members had to do was a pay a small monthly “Catholic Rent.” With the support for the association growing rapidly, more members started to join which meant more “rent.” The association was able to use this money to help further its cause by gaining influence amongst the electoral members.
With the rise of Catholicism came protest from its opponents. (Taylor, 2008 pg. 1) The Whig party and others believed that the Catholic Association was trying to form an “alternate parliament” which it might use to circumvent the British rule at the time.
As O’Connell continued to gain popularity and support, he used his power as leader to appoint lieutenants. These lieutenants were strategically picked from members of the community to promote the growth and popularity of the association. (Bloy, 1997 pg.1) Rich farmers were chosen to spread the word to other farmers and merchants were chosen to spread the word to local merchants. The most prominent demographic in O’Connell group of lieutenants was lawyers. (Foster, 1989 pg 295-302) Lawyers were powerful people due to their knowledge of the law and how to bend the rules and manipulate the system. Even though O’Connell was a lawyer himself, he could not have produced the results if he hadn’t had all the help.
With the the size of the Catholic Association at an all time high O’Connell and fellow leaders started influencing public elections. O’Connell’s biggest victory came in 1828 in County Clare. (Boyce, 1922 pg.15-42) The victory there was the “straw that broke the camel’s back. It made the Protestants in England finally give in to the Roman Catholic's demand for equality. In 1829, O’Connell’s dream was realized when the Emancipation Act was signed. The Emancipation Act gave Roman Catholics the ability to hold seats in the house of parliament, although they could not become regent, lord lieutenant or lord chancellor. Roman Catholics no longer had to take the oath of supremacy. There was still a level of distinction between Roman Catholics and non-Roman Catholics though because people were allowed to deny the pope’s authority in the United Kingdom. (Boyce, 1922 pg.15-42) The Protestants in England were not happy, they went on to say “A deadly blow was delivered to our heart.” (Boyce, 1922 pg.15-42) This marked the end of O’Connell’s progress toward breaking up the union in England and achieving religious freedom.
Shortly after the Emancipation Act ,O’Connell made a series of grave errors in his campaign. There are many different reasons given by many different people as to why O’Connell failed. One theory is that O’Connell over the years began “surrounding himself with unqualified toadies and hangers-on” (Taylor, 2008 pg. 1) which resulted in the weakening of the party. Others will point out that he began to grow unpopular when he became the MP in Dublin in 1832. He began to appoint family members to positions of power. He also...