Discuss The View That The Period 1800 1850 Was One Of Both Progress And Disillusion For Irish Catholics.

1609 words - 6 pages

During the first half of the nineteenth century, much was accomplished by the Irish Catholics under the leadership of Daniel O'Connell. However, it was also a time of disillusion because it seems as though every time one goal was accomplished, another problem would surface. In the very early years, Irish Catholics lacked any real direction or focus in achieving their main goal at the time, which was emancipation. Then finally, O'Connell emerged as the saviour of the Irish Catholics, and achieved emancipation merely six years after he founded the powerful Catholic Association. The real setback occurred sometime after this victory when O'Connell attempted to repeal the Act of Union through the Repeal Association, founded in 1840. Because attitudes towards the Irish had changed considerably in Parliament by that time, O'Connell was not able to render the same results he had achieved the decade before because he lacked the sympathy and support of the English government. Although this period of Irish history is a triumphant one for Catholics, it also marks time of frustration and disillusion.In 1800, the Act of Union was passed thus uniting Ireland and Britain and making Ireland subject to the Westminster Parliament. During this time, the most pressing problems in Ireland concerned land and church tithes. Looking back, we can see that the most serious issue was that of land since at the time there just was not enough of it to feed the entire growing Irish population. Because it was scarce, the rents were driven up, and since improving upon your land meant higher rents, tenant farmers were unwilling to develop their land.From a 21st century perspective, we can see that this problem was the most serious. However, at the time, most people were more concerned with the irritation of paying tithes to the established Church of Ireland and more importantly to the cause of Catholic Emancipation. Most of the Penal Laws had been repealed in the late 18th century, but Catholics still could not sit at parliament, become judges, colonels, captains, or ministers in the government.Landlords, merchants and professional men, who were not actually in touch with the majority of the Irish Catholic population, carried out the early attempts at Emancipation. This group of men was not very organized and tended to accomplish nothing except for gaining newspaper attention by bickering among themselves. One of these men, however, emerged from this group and became the most influential Irish politicians of the first half of the 19th century. Daniel O'Connell was a Catholic barrister from County Kerry and in 1823 he began the real movement for Catholic Emancipation by founding the Catholic Association. The reason that this organization was so much more successful that any other group before it was because it involved the masses of Irish Catholics, rather than just a handful of the rich. O'Connell did this by imposing a "Catholic rent" of just one penny a month, which was a sum...

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