« Catholic Apostolic Church Catholic Emancipation Catholic Epistles »

Catholic Emancipation

CATHOLIC EMANCIPATION: The name given to the Act by which Parliament, on Apr. 13, 1829, finally removed the civil disabilities under which the, Roman Catholics of England and Ireland had labored ever since the reign of Elizabeth, when those who refused to take the oath of supremacy and conform to the Established Church were excluded from the House of Commons and from all political power. They suffered from a mass of 460accumulated disabilities, which, if the law had been strictly enforced, would have deprived them of their rights, not only as citizens, but as parents, proprietors, and men. With the growth of toleration, a bill abolishing some of these disabilities was passed in 1778, to be followed by the uprising of the London mob known as the "Gordon Riots." Pitt had intended that the union between England and Ireland should be followed by a measure admitting Catholics to Parliament, with a provision for their clergy and a commutation of tithes. This hope, informally held out, probably helped to win their support for the union; but George III. was inflexibly opposed to this measure of justice, and Pitt resigned in consequence of its failure. In 1821, with Canning for its eloquent champion, a measure of emancipation was carried through the House of Commons, only to be defeated by Lord Eldon in the upper house. But a mighty agitation followed in Ireland, led by Daniel O'Connell and fomented by a great Catholic Association. This body was dissolved when Canning became minister in 1825, but revived when he was replaced by the anti-Catholic ministry of Wellington and Peel, and soon showed such formidable strength that the great Duke, with his political insight, saw that the hour for concession had come. The bill which Peel introduced threw open to Catholics Parliament and all the great offices of state, except those of regent, lord lieutenant of Ireland, and chancellor, the crown remaining limited, by an Act of Settlement to the Protestant Concession, and gave the electoral franchise to English Catholics. As the removal of an unjust anachronism, this measure was inevitable; but it failed to restore tranquillity to Ireland, since the concession had been robbed of its grace by delay and enforcement, and since the chief cause of Irish disaffection was, after all, not the religious disabilities but the tenure of land, as the sequel clearly showed.

Bibliography: Sources: A. Wellesley (Duke of Wellington), Supplementary Despatches, edited by his son, 7 July, 1812, London; 1867–80, Speeches, 17 May, 1819, 2 vols., ib.1854; F. S. Larpent, Private Journal, i. 95, ii. 20, London, 1853; Memoir of Sir Robert Peel, pt. i., The Roman Catholic Question, London, 1834; J. F. Stephen, History of Criminal Law of England ii. 476 sqq., London, 1883 (exceedingly valuable); W. J. Amherst. History of Catholic Emancipation in the British Isles, 2 vols., London, 1886 (fairly complete).

« Catholic Apostolic Church Catholic Emancipation Catholic Epistles »
VIEWNAME is workSection