Nationalism In 19Th Century Ireland Nationalism in Ireland during the Nineteenth Century After the Act of Union in 1801 the fate of the Irish people was in the hands of British M.P.s. They ruled the majority in Parliament and were making all of the decisions without much regard for the opinion from the people of Ireland. In order for the voices of the Irish people to be heard there would have to be a new nationalist approach to dealing with the British Parliament. Leaders such as Daniel O’Connell and Charles Parnell revolutionized strategies of approaching government. The beginning of the century belonged to O’Connell and his nonviolent approach, but the second half of the century belonged to Parnell who was not concerned as much with peace.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century the question at hand was whether or not Catholics could be trusted, however the early part of the nineteenth century dealt with a new issue, Catholic Emancipation. The success of the emancipation effort can be attributed to the political genius of one man, Daniel O’Connell. O’Connell was a successful lawyer in Ireland and wanted to join his people together to fight for Catholic Emancipation. Although the penal laws at the end of the eighteenth century had allowed Catholics to have their own schools, vote at parliament elections and join professions, they were still banned from sitting in parliament, becoming judges, and holding high offices in the army and navy. O’Connell realized that in order to receive full emancipation they would have to join together in a single organized effort. His actions displayed a nationalist effort that had never been seen before to this caliber before. In 1823 O’Connell started the Catholic Association.
What was different about the Association than any other prior movement groups was that it included everyone. It was not aimed solely at the wealthy. This mass of people included the Catholic Clergy who became trusted leaders of local agitations. O’Connell established a “rent” which was a one penny per month subscription to the association. This rent not only produced more revenue for the cause than ever before, but also created a sense of belonging to the cause.
In order to change the voice of parliament to support Catholic emancipation the Association pushed its members to vote. They did not want them to vote according to their landlords whishes like they had done in the past. O’Connell and the association wanted the people to vote to help their cause. The association was able to help financially support those who were kicked off of their land for not complying with their landlords wishes of who to vote for. This enabled a few members of parliament who were opposed to emancipation be replaced by those who did.
Another turning point of the movement was when O’Connell decided to run against Fitzgerald for a seat in Parliament. Although O’Connell was prohibited by law to actually sit in parliament he was allowed to run. In 1828 O’Connell’s people showed up at the voting booths in large numbers and he defeated Fitzgerald, adding fire to his cause. Wellington and Peel were very powerful leaders in Parliament and opposed to the emancipation of Catholics, but could not fail to recognize the intensity and organization of the Association. Even though O’Connell called for a peaceful resolution Peel and Wellington feared violence.
When the Catholic Emancipation bill was introduced in 1829 they supported and it was passed on April thirteenth of that year. This was a huge victory for O’Connell and they Catholic people. It also showed how when a feeling of nationalism was created for a cause that goals could be accomplished. This was the most defining moments of O’Connell’s career and inspiration for his repeal association which followed soon after. The repeal association was organized in a similar fashion to the Catholic Association.
It included a rent, and encouraged support from the masses. O’Connell and his followers believed that if they stood up to parliament in an organized fashion with large numbers of people then change could be made without the use of physical force. Monster meetings were organized where attendance was unprecedented. It seemed as though the people would be heard again, but O’Connell did not realize that the circumstances of parliament differed greatly during the repeal movement than those of the emancipation movement. The conservative party had taken control of parliament and O’Connell’s rival Robert Peel was Prime Minister.
Peel and the parliament were not nearly as welcoming to the idea of repeal as they were emancipation. When Peel banned one of O’Connell’s monster meetings in 1843, threatening to use physical force if necessary, O’Connell canceled the meeting. This was obviously a turning point of the movement and a clear indication that peaceful protest would not always be successful. Although O’Connell’s attempt had failed nationalism in Ireland was certainly not dead. After it was obvious that O’Connell would not succeed with a repeal a group named the Young Ireland became a prominent force.
Young Ireland were responsible for the Nation, a political newspaper that supported the repeal campaign. Led by a man named Thomas Davis the young Irelanders were responsible for many of the views and political tactics of Irish people for the rest of the century. Davis welcomed anyone who lived in Ireland to his cause regardless of religious affiliation, or origin. For this reason Davis was considered to be the leader behind the idea of nationality. Political tactics and “theory of how an Irish parliamentary party should function in the house of commons – the theory of remaining equally independent of both English parties, and in particular of rejecting all appointments from British governments of an colour” (moody martin 261) was created by Charles Gavan Duffy. One of the most influential ideas of the young Irelanders came from James Finton Lalor.
He published many letters in the Nation and stressed that national independence could not be achieved without addressing the idea of the land situation at the same time. Lalor’s ideas were essential to nationalism in Ireland because they would help involve everyone in one single struggle. The young Irelanders failed as a group to achieve any type of independence but their ideas would last forever. They believed that violence was necessary in order to achieve change, an idea that was seen through the Fenian movement and much of the twentieth century. Soon after the insurrection of 1848 Ireland entered the great famine.
Needless to say when the country began to recover from its devastating effects spirits were not at a particular high point. The country was divided again as a nation and its population was severely diminished. Survival was much more of a concern than an independent Ireland and recent failures did not do much in terms of rallying the people. There were two different types of gaining the attention of British Parliament now. The first was through constitutional methods and the second through physical force and revolt. It was not until the Fenian movement which began in 1858 that people began to seriously believe in fighting for independence again.
Fighting, adopted from the young Irelanders was a large part of the Fenian philosophy. They believed that independence was impossible without the use of physical force. They gained support from the new Irish overseas, but were condemned by the catholic church, even though many of its members were in fact Catholics. In 1865 many soldiers from overseas came to Ireland in order to fight for independence but the rising was postponed due to a lack of arms. This lack of arms was caused by conflicting ideas of the Fenian movement in Ireland and the movement in the U.S. When the rising did actually occur in 1867 it was too late.
Many of the influential leaders had been arrested for conspiracy and imprisoned. The actions of the Fenians did have a strong affect on a Gladstone who sat in British Parliament. He seemed to have a moral obligation to help the Irish and that he did. In 1869 he passed the disestablishment act which placed all religions on an equal level. Also in 1870 he passed the land act which inspired a new constitutional movement. Isaac Butt formed the Home Rule and its main objective was “subordinate parliament with control over Irish domestic affairs.” (moody and Martin 282) Many of Butt’s people gained positions in parliament but they did not have much of an effect until a new strategy, obstruction, was used.
This type of parliamentary procedure was led by Parnell and gained the support of the Fenian movement. This was the beginning of the cooperation between the two groups, constitutional and revolutionary. In 1877 the Land League was formed and Parnell was its President. This combined all nationalist into the group and was very effective. The League called for the three F’s, free sale, fixity of tenure and fair rents. This land war in which the farmers successfully stood up to their landlords was a very large and effective movement. The war in which people fought passionately against landlords lasted from 1879 to 1882 and caused Gladstone to pass a new land act in which the three F’s were acknowledged by the law.
At the end of the century it was clear that the only way to change was to unite. The genius of leaders like O’Connell and Parnell led to more change than Ireland had ever seen before. The spirit of the Irish people had been lifted by O’Connell, torn apart by the famine, and in the end restored by Parnell. Many of the strategies under Parnell’s leadership are still used to this day, and are unfortunately violent. However, the nineteenth century certainly taught Ireland that in order to change, they must come together.