The Repeal Year

A Forlorn Hope

To put it bluntly, Daniel O’Connell’s quixotic attempt in 1842-43 to obtain greater independence for Ireland from Britain’s suzerainity was doomed to failure from the start.[1]  That O’Connell’s 1843 campaign did not end in bloodshed was miraculous, and was in no small way a testament to the “Great Liberator” himself, his carefully calibrated demands of his British overlords and his oft-professed (and by all indications genuine) affection for and loyalty to the British Queen Victoria.—for even with Repeal, the question of full independence from Great Britain was never seen as an option.[2]  Violent revolt against Great Britain, the most powerful country on earth at the very height of her power would have certainly failed, and so what else was he or any Irish patriot of the age to do to advance the cause of Irish self-government?

To understand the Repeal Year and its failure, and also to better understand the horror of the Great Hunger that was soon to visit Ireland, one must look back as far as 700 years earlier, to when the Archbishop of Canterbury, upset over the loss of the see of Dublin to an Irish archbishop, prevailed upon the only English Pope, Adrian IV, to invest in King Henry II and his successors the right to rule over Ireland, symbolized by a gold ring set with a magnificent emerald.[3] The English ever since had subjected Ireland, first to repeated invasion and then after the final conquest by William of Orange in the 1690’s, to comprehensive and even brutish rule by what came to be called the Ascendancy, a tiny minority of Anglo-Norman, Protestant landowners.[4]

The 18th century proved to be a high point for Ireland (if not for all the Irish), both economically and politically.  The Irish Parliament was granted considerable autonomy in the 1780’s (if only for the Protestant Ascendancy) and the Irish agricultural classes were better off than they would be until well into the 20th century.[5] But the tumult of the 1790’s changed everything.  Rebellion in 1798, borne of the revolutionary successes in North America and France, put the very fear of God into the British, who in the fifth year of a comprehensive world war with France feared as much as anything, a French invasion anywhere in the British Isles.[6]  The British harshly put down the rebellion within months.  Thousands died, hundreds of them in atrocities committed by both the British and the rebels.[7]  The French did not land forces in Ireland until the main rebellion had largely been extinguished, and left Wolfe Tone and others to face British wrath.[8]

The British government of Pitt the Younger was determined to avoid Ireland ever being a weak link in the chain of British defenses against Napoleonic France, and rammed through Parliament (over the vociferous opposition of the Protestant Ascendancy) the Acts of Union in 1800, which put an end to the Irish Parliament until 1921.[9]  Irish Members of Parliament were a permanent minority (100 of 658), and they represented boroughs as “rotten” (and unrepresentative of the common man) as any in England.[10]  All semblance of self-rule was gone.  But Union did not resolve what had come to be known to the British establishment as the “Irish Question,” perhaps the most vexatious issue in British politics in the 19th century, and a question that would not be resolved until Irish independence in 1922.[11]

The then-future British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, captured the essence of the Irish Question, albeit from the British point of view:

A dense population, in extreme distress, inhabit an island where there is an Established Church, which is not their Church, and a territorial aristocracy the richest of whom live in foreign capitals. Thus you have a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church; and in addition the weakest executive in the world. That is the Irish Question.[12]

An Irishman such as Daniel O’Connell or the “Young Irelanders” who would come to displace O’Connell as the leaders of Irish nationalist sentiment, or even such other, more autonomous actors such as Father Theobold Mathew (the “Father of Temperance”), likely would not have quibbled with Disraeli’s description of what R. F. Foster clinically described as the “perceived problems of life in early nineteenth-century life in Ireland.”[13]  But these and other Irishman these symptoms, but they certainly would have quarreled with virtually any Briton (save the odd Radical or two sympathetic to Irish sensibilities) as to the cause of such problems.  Bluntly put, conventional wisdom in England blamed the Irish for systemic shortcomings ways that have been characterized as racist by modern standards.[14]  Irishmen saw a century or more of systemic British occupation as the root cause of Irish misery.[15]

In 1800, a young man named Daniel O’Connell stepped to the national stage in the wake of the Rebellion of ’98 and Union and led the way for the next 45 years.[16]  The British Establishment came very quickly to despise O’Connell as a mendacious demagogue bent on “subverting the British Constitution by imposing Popery on the British Isles,” simply because he was an advocate for Catholic emancipation (and concomitant participation on the national political stage).[17] as McCaffrey put it, he was at once a “menace to privilege” and a champion of liberals and democrats of the day.

O’Connell was also a pacifist—both a philosophy and a strategy borne of the bloody resolution of the Rebellion of ‘98.[18]  Every step he took until his arrest in October 1844, when the British proscribed the Clontarf Monster Meeting, was imbued with the lessons of failed rebellion—never, ever oppose the British Crown with arms and never be seen to threaten England itself.[19]  He became in time a shaper of political institutions in Ireland and an architect of the major issues of the day, whether it was Catholic Emancipation or the putative terms of independence from the English yoke.

In O’Connell’s view, Catholic Emancipation was of secondary importance to repeal of the Acts of Union and restoration of the Irish Parliament—even if it meant that Catholics would not have the vote.  He was, first and foremost, an Irish nationalist, and his actions through the early 1820’s in aid of Irish independence almost certainly delayed the day of Catholic Emancipation.[20]  Frustrated by the lack of progress in undoing the Acts of Union, O’Connell came to see the Catholic Question as a way to not only rally the Irish masses to his side, but also to coopt the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to his side.

In 1824, he formed the Catholic Association.  Within a few years, it was the most powerful political institution in Ireland, and how he did it became a model for all subsequent 19th-century British and Irish agitations.[21]  Every Catholic parish in Ireland was a source of money and a means of agitation and every Catholic priest was a recruiting agent for the cause of Catholic Emancipation.  The Catholic Association’s coffers overflowed and its ranks were swelled with dues-paying members.

The British government in the late 1820’s, personified in Sir Robert Peel, the Government leader in the House of Commons (and future prime minister) and the Duke of Wellington, British Prime Minister, war hero and apotheosis of Protestant Ascendancy made good, were deeply worried about the potential for armed insurrection.[22]  But at every turn, O’Connell denounced physical violence and relied upon organized public pressure to achieve Catholic Emancipation, which was to be the springboard for Irish freedom and justice.

In the general election of 1826, O’Connell’s Catholic Association, with the aid of Catholic parish priests, won sweeping victories at the polls, and in 1828, O’Connell himself was elected to Parliament, even though as a Catholic, he could not be seated.  Yet not to seat him risked civil unrest in Ireland, not to mention an undermining of cherished of English political institutions.  Of this was born the emancipation of the Catholic vote.  But O’Connell’s victory was not unalloyed.  He took a noxious oath of allegiance, and quickly became co-opted by the Whigs and the Reform Bill of 1832, with the promise of Whig support for Repeal.

Such support was never really forthcoming, and the cause of Repeal suffered through the 1830’s.  The Catholic Association lost its primacy as a force for political change and O’Connell’s allies of the 1820’s and ’30’s, the Catholic hierarchy and the Whig Party, were done with him.  What’s more, the bright young Irish lawyers who had helped him build the Catholic Association in the 1820’s had by now been fully co-opted by the Whig establishment.  O’Connell and the cause of Repeal were virtually alone.

In 1841, O’Connell formed the Loyal National Repeal Association in an attempt to reestablish his political power and relevance.  Only fifteen people joined him at the outset.  Even as late as January 1843, O’Connell (while still a powerful politician in his own right; he was by this time the first Catholic Lord Mayor of Dublin) and the cause of Repeal seemed to be dwindling into permanent insignificance.[23]  But a combination of the enduring nature of the Irish Question, British intransigence and ineptness, which continued to stoke Irish discontent on any number of fronts, and two new sets of allies who could help him exploit Irish discontent) catapulted O’Connell back into relevance by the spring, and made 1843 the Repeal Year.

One new source of strength was Father Theobold Mathew, a simple Capuchin friar who became the “Father of Temperance.”  His movement, which began in 1838, was one of a number of Irish-born responses to the “perceived problems of life in early nineteenth-century Ireland,” others of which included the enhanced role of the Catholic Church as an instrument of social welfare.[24]  Temperance as a cultural movement ended precipitately in Ireland with the coming of the Great Hunger.  But it was very much a factor in the Repeal Year—even though Father Mathew himself refused O’Connell’s overtures to unite Temperance and Repeal into a single movement—because of the perceived value of having a million or more adherents who were seen as being sober, an entirely more sympathetic movement than one perceived to be dominated by hooligans given to excessive drink and “midnight incendiarism and murder” (a not-uncommon stereotype in England).[25]

Another source of support were the lawyers, journalists and polemicists comprising the Young Irelanders.  The secret of O’Connell’s success in the 1820s with Emancipation had been in marrying his coterie of well-educated and relatively well-off lawyers and other professionals with a much broader, popular movement.[26]  No longer was sentiment restricted to a small band of patriots.  Instead, support for Emancipation was to be found in a huge swathe of all economic and social classes other than the landed Protestant Ascendancy.  For the first time, there were huge, public demonstrations in support of Emancipation.

O’Connell wanted to reprise that success with Repeal.  But by 1840, that earlier generation of lawyers, journalists and provincial merchants were middle-aged, married and otherwise not hungry for such a new adventure.  Their absence at first stymied O’Connell, and membership in his new Repeal Association languished.  But in October 1842 a new source of support presented itself in the form of the Nation, which was the “product of the combined talents of three remarkable young men—Thomas Osborne Davis, John Blake Dillon and Charles Gavan Duffy.”[27]

The “Young Irelanders,” as first the English press and later O’Connell disparagingly called them, lent a much harder nationalist edge to the cause of Repeal, and indeed were the founders of modern Irish nationalism.[28]  They were not Benthamite utilitarians, as was O’Connell.[29]  They instead were 19th century European Romantics who insisted that “a nation is a spiritual essence,” and who argued that Ireland must be free to “protect its cultural integrity from contact with British materiality.”[30]  The Nation’s editorial page championed “cultural nationalism, sectarian cooperation, Repeal … and other reforms consistent with liberalism and democracy.”[31]  O’Connell had little patience for what he saw as the Nation’s unnecessarily strident militancy and evocation of a misty past.  Moreover, he and the Young Irelanders disagreed on a broad range of contemporary political and social issues.[32]

But O’Connell recognized that he could not do without the Young Irelanders.  They by the same token, understood the allegiance of the Irish masses to a man they saw as inconstant on the issue of real Irish independence, not to mention his despotic sway over the Repeal Association and his doting dependence on his “favorite but untalented son John.”  Whilst no doubt muttering to themselves over the Liberator’s decided shortcomings, they were in print and otherwise gentle in their criticism of him and his son.  More importantly, they took care to be seen as submitting themselves themselves to O’Connell’s leadership.[33]

Thus was a marriage of convenience born in the waning days of 1842, and in January 1843, O’Connell with the backing of Young Irelanders’ brilliant propaganda machine issued a manifesto, To the Irish people, in which he declared that 1843 was to be, “emphatically, the repeal year.”  In O’Connell’s view, Britain faced serious international issues, and thus would not dare opposed Repeal.  But, he cautioned, “there must be no riots, no violence, no tumult, no breach of the peace, there must be submission to every legal authority.”[34] This overt urging of non-violence and even of scrupulous obedience to the law was nonetheless tinged—just as Emancipation had been tinged twenty years earlier—with the veiled threat of revolution if Britain were not forthcoming with reform—and ultimately Repeal.[35]

Yet, despite the impetus provided by the Young Irelanders, not to mention the support thrown behind Repeal by such powerful members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy such as Archbishop McHale (although such support was far from unanimous), it was not until Repeal was debated in the Dublin Corporation in late February 1843 that it truly caught the public’s fancy.  In a bravura performance, O’Connell decidedly defeated the no-Popery, Tory Irishman, Isaac Butt, who maintained that Repeal would “reduce Ireland from a state of equality with England, Scotland, and Wales to the degrading position of a conquered and dependent province.”[36]

Unionist—comprising among others the Protestant Ascendancy and the newly arising Protestant merchant class in Belfast and elsewhere in Protestant-dominated Ulster—reaction to the debate and the prospect of Repeal was swift and furious:  any and all Irish Repeal “agitation was a dangerous threat to the Union, to the Empire, the Protestant Church, Protestant property, and Protestant lives.”[37]  Worse for Repeal prospects was the absence of even a scintilla of support in England.[38]  Not even the liberal Protestants were sympathetic to the issue of Irish political freedom (in marked contrast to such Protestant Young Irelanders as Thomas Davis).[39]  Instead, memories of rebellion and the breach of England’s defenses in the very darkest days of the Napoleonic Wars—however inapposite they may have been at the zenith of British power and influence—loomed large in the English mind.[40]  Reaction from every other principal voice in England was thus unanimously anti-Repeal.

Despite this din of opposition, O’Connell steamed on, holding a series of more than 30 public gatherings, starting in the April as the weather began to turn, and ending in October.   They were a tactical reprise from O’Connell’s successful Emancipation campaign in the 1820’s, designed to indicate to the British the same kind of intense support for Repeal by the Irish masses that they had had for Emancipation twenty years earlier.   They were also the embodiment of O’Connell’s implied threat of civil war if the cause of Repeal was not advanced.  “In short, the outdoor Repeal meetings were an effective method of constitutional intimidation.”[41]

They were successful beyond anyone’s expectations, including O’Connell.[42]  The Times (London) disparagingly labeled them as “monster meetings,” an epithet lovingly adopted by the O’Connell as an honored sobriquet for “meetings that were gigantic in their … determination to achieve Irish self-government.”[43]  They were by far the most dramatic feature of the Repeal Year, and rapidly became famous throughout Europe and North America.[44]  They were highly orchestrated, theatrical events that typically began early on a Sunday with mass said by priests at impromptu outdoor altars on hillsides, followed by an impromptu parade following the Liberator’s coach, pulled by hand by a score or more Repealers.[45]

When O’Connell arrived, speeches by a procession of local nationalist leaders (usually leavened with a friendly bishop or two) would have been going on for hours, and would continue for some hours still as O’Connell patiently listened.  Only then would O’Connell speak to the Irish masses.  He was invariably at his demagogic best in these speeches, playing his audience’s emotions “like an accomplished musician on his instrument.”  He would praise the Irish people, giving a nod to their new-found sobriety as a result of Father Mathew’s campaign, and then he would spend a few moments praising Queen Victoria as a “a paragon of virtue in love with her Irish subjects.”  Finally, O’Connell would warn that “crafty spinning jenny” Peel would have to surrender to the Irish national will, as embodied in the great and disciplined army of Repealers—for if not, then he (O’Connell) might be pushed aside by “more violent men.”[46]

It wasn’t until May that Dublin Castle reacted to O’Connell and his army of Repealers.  Until then, O’Connell had been to the “Castle crowd” merely “an ancient and declining demagogue.”  But the rapidly growing Monster Meetings changed all of that.  The Lord Lieutenant informed Peel that Ireland “was on the brink of disaster,” and he requested emergency powers by which he might suppress the Repeal movement.[47]  Peel, ever cautious in his dealings with Ireland, demurred in taking specific action, although on May 9, he promised the House of Commons (and the Duke of Wellington similarly pledged to the House of Lords) that “the Government would employ every means at its disposal to preserve the Union and would not even shrink from civil war if necessary.”[48]

But O’Connell was not to be deterred.  The Monster Meetings continued, and Catholic support for Repeal solidified.  When O’Connell spoke at Mallow on June 9, he described Peel and Wellington as “second Cromwells” who might slaughter the women of Ireland in cold blood and send their menfolk into bondage in the West Indies, as had been done a century and half before.[49]  Yet, as McCaffrey said, “by midsummer O’Connell knew that his strategy had failed, and he found himself the leader of an agitation that could easily slip out of his control into the hands of young hotheads.”[50]

So why had he unleashed this Celtic tiger?  Surely not Repeal itself.  Perhaps instead O’Connell hoped for the Peel government to fall and the Whigs to return to power with Irish support in exchange for incremental reforms on the question of Irish home rule and the onerous Poor Laws.  Or maybe O’Connell did secretly hope for a provisional government in 1843, to be followed by true Repeal later.  But he had miscalculated, and his old enemy, Peel, was now merely waiting for O’Connell to lose control of his movement and be crushed.[51]

But the wily old man was not yet defeated.  In August, sensing an opportunity to continue his gamble, O’Connell proposed a plan for an independent Irish government.  In the same breath, he pledged “perpetual” Irish loyalty to the Crown.[52]  In the weeks that followed, O’Connell raised the stakes even further, proposing to displace the British legal system with a system of arbitration courts.   As summer passed into fall and the Monster Meetings continued, the outcome of O’Connell’s gamble was unclear and tensions continued to mount as the ever-present threat of Repeal agitation devolving into armed resistance.

Peel stiffened, and O’Connell began to blink.  On October 1, at the Mullaghmast Monster Meeting, O’Connell signaled that he saw the struggle for Repeal in the longer term.  The crowd that day was as large as at any prior meeting.[53]  But all was peaceful.  There was to be one more Monster Meeting that year, at Clontarf, and then winter would be upon Ireland and plans could be made for the next season.

Clontarf was “a sound as grateful to the ears of Irishmen as Bunker’s Hill to Americans and Bannockburn to Scotchmen.”[54]  It was the site where Brian Boru had defeated the Danes a century before the first English invasion.[55]  The meeting was announced publicly by notice published in pro-Repeal press, in which the “Repeal Cavalry” would march on Sunday, October 8, at noon, on horseback.  Every man would be mounted and armed with a cockade and a wand.[56]  O’Connell apparently was furious when he learned of the notice, and he had a new notice published that omitted all of the militaristic jargon of the September.  He also changed the route of the parade, so as not to interfere with any Protestant religious services.

But the damage was already done.  For Peel, whose government was already exploring how to prosecute O’Connell for seditious libel, this militaristic notice furnished the perfect opportunity to arrest O’Connell and have an end to the Repeal Year.[57]   The Lord Lieutenant, under orders from Peel, mustered more than 3,000 troops and policemen at Clontarf and banned the meeting.

The Young Irelanders leaped at the opportunity to “cross swords with the Government.”[58]  They hoped that O’Connell would lead them in resisting British oppression, a cause that Young Irelanders such as Duffy believed to have a considerable likelihood of success.[59]  O’Connell, on the other hand, while considering the British actions to have been illegal, was well aware that there was a “vast chasm that separates words from deeds,” and he likewise knew that there could be no armed confrontation with the full might of the British Empire.”[60]  He thus gave the order to stand down.

Within a fortnight, O’Connell was arrested, along with his son, John, Charles Gavan Duffy and a number of others.[61]  His arrest did not provoke a rebellion, so the Lord Lieutenant considered the crisis to have passed, and British forces were withdrawn from the island.  In February 1844, the Repeal defendants were convicted by a packed jury, fined £2,000 and sentenced to a year in prison—only to have the conviction overturned on appeal in September, whereupon O’Connell and his fellow defendants were released from Richmond prison.[62]  O’Connell’s sojourn at Richmond prison may have been one of the most luxurious in Irish history.[63]  But it broke him nonetheless, and although he left prison feted and lionized as a great hero, his time upon the stage was done.  He was dead within three years, of a softening of the brain.[64]

So why did the Repeal Year fail?  Young Irelanders such as Duffy thoroughly castigated O’Connell for his capitulation at Clontarf, and they and others struck him from the first rank of the “pantheon of Irish heroes with Parnell, the Fenians, the men of 1916, or the leaders of the 1919-1922 period” for his capitulation.[65] They believed that O’Connell merely needed to defy the British proclamation proscribing the planned Clontarf Monster Meeting, even if it resulted in violent conflict.  He wrote decades later that the “probabilities of success must be tested by the fortunes of other nations in kindred circumstances.  A people of eight millions fighting to retain their own country is an immense force.”[66]  In other words, he foresaw success if the Repeal Association resisted.

I suspect, as McCaffrey wrote, that O’Connell’s cooler head saved many a life.[67]  In any case, even

Yet fail O’Connell did.  Not from a surfeit of moral cowardice, as the Young Irelanders would have had it.[68]  But instead from a fundamental misreading of British political opinion.  In the 1820’s, O’Connell’s tactic of pressing for reform as an alternative to his being shunted aside by more radical elements worked.[69]  In 1843, it did not, for the simple reason that “no respectable Tory, Whig , or even Radical accepted Repeal as a satisfactory solution to the Irish Question.”[70]  In other words, it was simply not the time for Irish independence.

Could O’Connell have extracted more if upon his release from Richmond prison in September 1844 he had not been an old man who had lost his “zest for agitation”?[71]  We cannot know.  Moreover, what if O’Connell had followed the counsel of Duffy and other Young Irelanders and not capitulated over Clontarf?  What would have been the outcome?  I suggest that in light of the potato blight that was to strike two years later, in the late summer and fall of 1845, the result would not have been good for Ireland.  Indeed, the Young Irelanders did foment an armed uprising in Ballingry in July 1848, which fortunately ended in more in farce than tragedy.[72]  Yet even that failure was not a loss in the longer term, for the survivors scattered across the globe, transporting their ideas to America, thereby along with “the phenomenon of McConnellism and the advent of the priest in politics, helped create the terms of future Irish political mobilization,” both in the United States and at home in Ireland.[73]

But in 1844, Peel and the Conservatives and the Unionists appeared to have been the victors.  Yet Peel would be swept away in May 1846 over the Corn Laws repeal, the one really substantive effort he and his government made to blunt the effects of potato blight in the first full year of the Great Hunger.[74]  Duffy argued that British policy in 1843-44 ultimately failed.  He cited British weakness over the Alabama incident during the Civil War in the United States was directly due to the British need to placate Irish-American wrath.  Such need arose from Peel’s failure to substantively address—and resolve—the Irish Question.[75]  Indeed, the Irish Question would remain unresolved for more than sixty years, and would erupt (as such matters are wont to do) in the form of the April 1916 Easter Uprising.  (It was a haunting echo of 1798, in that the insurrection occurred during the darkest hours of World War I, and was moreover an eloquent testament to the failure of British policy in Ireland during the intervening century.)[76]

The Protestant Ascendancy remained in a long slow decline as landlords (absentee and otherwise) went bust, and their social class would finally expire as Ireland finally gained her independence in 1922.  Unionism, of course, became ascendant in Ulster during the 1871-1914 timeframe, thus setting the stage for partition in 1922 and then, a century later, the Troubles, which ceased in the late 1990’s after thirty years of sectarian strife and bloodshed (albeit with a much greater degree of economic and social segregation than before).[77]


There are a great number of outstanding works on the Repeal Year.  I relied heavily on Lawrence McCaffrey’s Daniel O’Connell and the Repeal Year, which gives as good an overview as I could find.  Charles Gavan Duffy’s two volume work, Young Ireland, A Fragment of Irish History, 1840-1850, was also immensely helpful, particularly in terms of local color and the views of Young Ireland and the failure of the Repeal movement.

[1]       (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) At 59-60 (informs Parliament that the British government will oppose Repeal, even at the cost of civil war) & 134, 173-74 (Queen Victoria’s speech closing Parliament, where she supported both Peel’s reform efforts meant to defuse agitation and his efforts to preserve the United Kingdom and avoid some form of devolution).

[2]       (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 56.  McCaffrey observes that O’Connell was not being naïve in suggesting that Queen Victoria would use her “moribund prerogatives” to nullify the Acts of Union.  It was a device to keep the Repealers enthusiastic.  Id.

[3]       (Foster R. F., 1982)   at 47-48.

[4]       The Protestant Ascendancy was the landed elite who dominated Irish the Irish political scene through what R. F. Foster calls the “long eighteenth century,” beginning in the 1690’s and ending with the Acts of Union in 1800.  (Foster R. F., 1982) at 134-43.  The Ascendancy was in general viewed by the English as distinct from the Catholic majority, but nonetheless with suspicion, for English and Scottish emigrants to Ireland were seen as having “gone native” within two or three generations.  (Lengel, 2002) at 30-31.

[5]       (Foster R. F., 1982) at 149 (autonomy of Irish parliament under the Constitution of 1782); (Foster R. F., 1982) &  at 145-48 (relative prosperity of Irish agricultural classes in the mid-to-late 18th century).

[6]       (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 1-2.

The French had attempted to invade Ireland in 1796, but were turned back by bad weather and worse French seamanship (according to Wolfe Tone).  Within a few weeks, the French fleet was crushed at the Battle of Camperdown a few weeks later and French army of more than 14,000 combat veterans was broken up.  The threat to Britain was over.  (Murphy, 1997) at [book coming].  Tone later wrote that “England has not had such an escape since the Spanish Armada, .and that expedition, like ours, was defeated by the weather.”  (Tone, 1827) at 150-51.

The later French “invasion” of 1798 had only 1,100 men, occurred several months after the main rebellion and no chance whatsoever of success.  Tone and many others were captured and condemned to death.  Tone escaped the hangman’s noose by slitting his throat and taking a week to die.  (Murphy, 1997) at [book coming].

[7]       (Murphy, 1997) at [book coming].

[8]       (Murphy, 1997) at [book coming].

[9]       (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at x.

[10]     [cite].  Catholics could not be seated as MPs, only members of the Church of England were permitted  to serve.  [cite].

[11]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at ix.

[12]     Benjamin Disraeli, in a speech to Parliament, February 16, 1844.

[13]     (Foster R. F., 1982) at 165.

[14]     As to the British, their views ranged from the “blame the Irish” conventional wisdom to the more nuanced views of Sir Robert Peel, whom McCaffrey observed “was an unusual British Prime Minister; he knew something about Ireland.”  After his time as Chief Secretary in Ireland, Peel left Ireland firmly convinced that the country suffered from the selfish ambitions of both the Protestant Ascendancy and Irish nationalists (who were primarily Catholic, although there were Protestant nationalists). He thought that resolute government, rather than expensive reforms, was the answer to the Irish Question.  (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 135 (concerning Peel); see also, e.g., (Lengel, 2002) at 4-5 (discussing the nature of English racist attitudes and the historiography related thereto).

The Duke of Wellington was far more contemptuous of the Irish, despite having been born in Ireland a fully paid-up member of the Ascendancy.  Perhaps such sentiments were borne in part of his contempt for the masses—no matter their nationality.  (Fox, 1890) at 36-37 (Wellington’s contempt extended to his troops—many of whom were Irish, who served him so well during the Napoleonic Wars).  Wellington was at least flexible enough to bend on Emancipation when he was Prime Minister—if only to prevent open revolt.  (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 7-8.

Thomas Malthus’s malleable views were more overtly racist.  In the 1820s, he furnished completely different explanations for rapid population growth in England and Ireland.  Rapid population growth among the poor in England he blamed on the existence of poor relief.  Of course, poor relief did not exist in Ireland until 1838, so he instead blamed the breeding habits of the Irish poor, which he said were so “degraded” that they “propagate[d] their species like brutes.”  Malthus also blamed the land tenure system and the existence of a corrupt landlord class, who in his view perpetrated the brutal poverty of early nineteenth-century Ireland.  (Kinealy, This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine, 1845-52, 2006) at 16-17.

[15]     O’Connell viewed Irish poverty and misery through the lens of Repeal and Irish self-governance, which would naturally put an end to the Protestant Ascendancy and allow wealth to naturally redistribute more broadly across Ireland.   (McCaffrey L. J., The Irish Question : Two Centuries of Conflict, 1995) at 36-37.  The Young Irelanders weren’t of a much different mind, although they were cultural nationalists infused with the ethos of mid-nineteenth-century Romanticism.  Id.  And as cultural nationalists, they were far more warlike in their tactics, which led to their ultimate break in the Famine years.  (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 28-30 & 233-35.

[16]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 2-4.

[17]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at vii.

English fear of “Popery” did not come from thin air, though.  The Glorious Revolution of 1688 had been, in no small part, about a decisive rejection of Catholicism.  But by the 19th century fear of a Catholic ascendancy was an ancient fear, and in the hindsight of the 21st century, a foolish one insofar as England and the United Kingdom as a whole was concerned—notwithstanding the 1858-61 crisis over the end of papal temporal power in Italy and populist fears of a papally-dominated Catholic hierarchy in the United Kingdom.  See, e.g., (McIntyre, 1983) at 22-40.  Ireland was a different matter, for Catholic Emancipation and Repeal were birds of a feather, and O’Connell early on recognized the former as a means to the end of the latter and ultimately to some form of Irish independence.  (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 4.

[18]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at ix.  It should be noted though, that his pacifism had its limits.  In 1815, as the struggle for Catholic Emancipation got underway in earnest, O’Connell referred to the Dublin Corporation, which was a stronghold for the Protestant Ascendancy, as a “beggarly corporation.”  D’Esterre, a member of the Dublin Corporation, was reputed to be a crack shot, and he challenged O’Connell to a duel (after having been put up to it) with the intent of assassinating him.  O’Connell instead mortally wounded D’Esterre. He was  devastated, particularly as D’Esterre’s family was left nearly destitute as a result.  O’Connell was to have had another duel that year, this time with Sir Robert Peel in Belgium.  But O’Connell was arrested and never made it across the Channel.  Tories would periodically criticize him for “cowardice” after that, an insult he shrugged off.  O’Connell famously pledged never to duel again, a pledge he kept to his dying day.  (Lecky, 1903) at 32-33.

[19]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 180-83.

[20]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 3-5.

[21]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 5.

[22]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 7.

[23]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 13-14.

[24]     (Foster R. F., 1982) at 165.

[25]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 21-23; (Lengel, 2002) at 24 & 26-27.

[26]     (Foster R. F., 1982) at 157.

[27]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 24.

[28]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 291 (English press bestowing the sobriquet “Young Irelanders”); [cite] (O’Connell adopting the sobriquet); (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 26 (Young Irelanders founded modern Irish nationalism).

[29]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at  28 (O’Connell a utilitarian with little time for Irish cultural nationalism or the Irish language).

[30]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 26; see also id. at 29 (Influence of European cultural nationalism on Young Ireland).

[31]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 27-28.

[32]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 29.

[33]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 29 (Young Irelander view on O’Connell) & 30 (submission to O’Connell as the Repeal Association’s leader).

[34]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 31-32.

[35]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 37.

[36]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 105; (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 39 (Dublin Corporation debate) & 64-65 (Catholic Church hierarchy support for Repeal).  The Dublin Corporation was until 2002 what is today known as the Dublin City Council.  [better cite than Wikipedia]

[37]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 104.

[38]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 85 (no English support for Repeal outside a few Chartists and Irish immigrants).

[39]     Of the leading triumvirate of Young Irelanders, only Davis was Protestant.  Duffy and John Blake Dillon were Catholic.  (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 24-26.  Protestant support for Repeal was otherwise relatively small.  [cite]

[40]     (Lengel, 2002) at 25.

[41]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 51

[42]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 52.

[43]     (Williams & Williams, 2003) at 34 (Times epithet); (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 53 (O’Connell adopts the sobriquet).

[44]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 57.

[45]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 53.

[46]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 354-57; (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 53-57.

[47]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 59.

[48]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 60.

[49]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 81-83.

[50]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 86.

[51]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 87-88.

[52]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 89.

[53]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 351.

[54]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 353.

[55]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 352.

[56]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at __; (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 191-92.

[57]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 193.

[58]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 197; (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 362 (“there were solid grounds for believing that resistance would be successful”).

[59]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 361-65.

[60]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 197.

[61]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 206.

[62]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 211-12; (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 389-510.

[63]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 491-95 (describing the conditions of O’Connell’s incarceration).

[64]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 531-32.

[65]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at vii – ix; see also (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 362-65 (O’Connell’s capitulation over Clontarf betrayed the Repeal movement, thereby wasting a magnificent opportunity for Irish independence); (Connolly, 2003) at http://www. /lih/chap12.htm (last accessed on March 29, 2013) (Connolly, a Marxist, wrote the pamphlet in 1910, chapter XII of which was entitled, “A chapter of horrors: Daniel O’Connell and the working class.”).

[66]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 362.

[67]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 199.

[68]     (Doheny, 2007) at 30-31 (“the consequences should be risked rather than falsify the national pledge.  To recede was [the moral] cowardice … which shrinks from an imperious obligation”).

[69]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 212.

[70]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at 213.

[71]     (McCaffrey L. J., 1966) at

[72]     The uprising, which was conceived “without a military plan, or adequate supplies of arms and ammunition, or a committed rebel army was about to end badly, even ludicrously.”  (Donnelly, 2001) at 205.  And so it did, in Widow McCormack’s cabbage garden.  Id.

[73]     (Foster R. F., 1982) at 162; see also (Donnelly, 2001) at 206-08.

[74]     (Woodham-Smith, 1991) at 86-88.

[75]     (Duffy C. G., 1881) at 381.

[76]     (Foster R. F., 1982) at 197-99.

[77]     (Foster R. F., 1982) at 189-93 (Protestant Unionism, 1870-1914), 211-225 (Partition, 1922-1949) & 229 (outbreak of armed conflict beginning in 1969 marked the failure of partition); (University of Ulster, 2013) at (accessed March 29, 2013) (website containing “information and source material on ‘the Troubles’ and politics in Northern Ireland from 1968 to the present”).

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