Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: 19th century ireland ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: 19th century ireland
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: face69-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 20 Jun 2006 05:07 PDT
Expires: 20 Jul 2006 05:07 PDT
Question ID: 739595
What were the main issues for ireland in the 19th century?

Clarification of Question by face69-ga on 20 Jun 2006 13:37 PDT
What were the main political issues facing the irish government in the
19th century especially considering the 'Great famine'?
Subject: Re: 19th century ireland
Answered By: boquinha-ga on 24 Jun 2006 06:15 PDT
Hello face96-ga!

I found some excellent information for you about 19th-century Ireland.
I initially found a few nice timelines and extracted events and issues
that seemed pertinent to your question. I?ve included links to the
timelines later in this answer. A lot of my information comes from the
site It has a very nice chronological
article about major events and issues concerning Ireland in the 19th
century. I think that you?ll find it to be a great launching pad for a
lot of research. Well, here it all is!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ACT OF UNION (1800 A.D.)

The event that set the tone for most of the political activities of
Ireland during the 19th century was the Act of Union. This act brought
Great Britain and Ireland together in to what was to be called the
United Kingdom. Some motivation behind this was to bring to light some
of the injustices being felt by the Catholics in Ireland by making
them the minority religious group in the U.K. The Irish parliament in
Dublin was abolished and Ireland gained representation in the British

?The result pleases no one. Ireland's political classes, members of
the Protestant ascendancy, have played leading roles in their own
parliament. Now they are small fry in the larger English
establishment. Yet the change also means that they spend less time in
Ireland. Dublin declines in glamour and prosperity. Estates in Ireland
become subject to the neglect and decay associated with absentee

?The Act of Union, which was passed in 1800 and went into effect on
January 1, 1801, joined the Kingdom of Great Britain and all of
Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The
merger followed a fierce but unsuccessful rebellion against British
rule in Ireland. The Irish legislature was abolished, and the Irish
were allowed 32 members in the British House of Lords and 100 members
in the House of Commons. The act also provided for the continuation of
the Anglican Church as the established church in Ireland. The Roman
Catholic Irish felt betrayed because they had not acquired the right
to hold political office.?

Here is a link to the text of the Act of Union.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


A hotbed topic of the 1820s was that of securing universal rights for
Catholics living in the U.K. Among other things, Catholics were not
permitted to hold public office, and the oath sworn in parliament
required members to ?deny on oath the spiritual authority of the

?The issue of Catholic emancipation is brought back on to the agenda
by a brilliant use of grassroots politics. Daniel O'Connell, an
experienced campaigner who first achieves prominence in 1800 for his
speeches in Dublin against the Act of Union, organizes from 1823 a
network of Catholic associations throughout Ireland. Their purpose is
to demand an end to discrimination. . . .

There is considerable sympathy in England for this cause and several
bills for Catholic relief are put forward - only to be rejected in the
House of Lords.

The Emancipation Act is passed in 1829, removing nearly all the
barriers against Catholics holding public office. The crucial clause,
in the immediate context, is the one dropping the requirement for
members of parliament to deny on oath the spiritual authority of the
pope. O'Connell takes his seat.

He soon becomes the leader of the Irish members and works towards the
achievement of his main aim - the repeal of the union of 1800. But for
the moment, as he himself recognizes, this cause takes second place to
the frenzy now gripping Westminster in the battle for and against
parliamentary reform.?

?To supporters of Catholic Emancipation, it was only just that their
Catholic compatriots should have the political right to sit in the
British Parliament. To the opponents of the Act, however, it marked a
retreat from the ancient principle (and real privileges) of an
established, official, state church, and, most ominously, meant that
Catholics could now, by their vote in a parliament that discussed and
decided on a wide range of matters affecting the Church of England
(Anglican Church) have real influence over that church!?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


O?Connell spent the 1830s biding his time, waiting for the right
political climate to fight again the union of 1800. Because of the
seeming lack of progress on this issue, he renewed his fight in 1840.
He soon received staunch support from two young Irish patriots.

?In 1842 Charles Duffy and Thomas Davis found a weekly newspaper, the
Nation, as the voice of a movement which becomes known as Young
Ireland. Together the Young Ireland leaders and O'Connell pioneer a
peaceful form of popular protest. They organize mass demonstrations
which become known as ?monster meetings.??

A large meeting was planned in October 1843, calling for one million
Irish to convene near Dublin.

?Robert Peel, the prime minister, decides that the meeting should be
banned. Troops and cannon are sent . . . to maintain order. O'Connell,
to the dismay of his younger colleagues, takes the statesmanlike
decision to call off the event. But the government fails to respond in
the same spirit. O'Connell and others are tried, convicted and
imprisoned for seditious conspiracy.?

Their convictions were overturned in the House of Lords and in 1844
they were released from prison. More radical members of the Young
Ireland movement called for more aggressive measures. These actions
would have to wait, however as all of the Irish politicians became
focused on the potato famine and famine relief.

Here is more information on the Young Ireland movement, including a
brief history of its 19th-century leaders and activities.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 


In 1845 the potato crop of Ireland was destroyed by a fungus, and it
continued into 1846 and 1847. The result of this fungal infestation
was the Great Famine.

?There are two immediate results of this disaster. One is political -
the rapid repeal of the protective Corn Laws, keeping grain prices in
Britain artificially high, which have been the subject of passionate
debate for years. The other is human. Starving families grasp at the
chance of a new life in America.

The Irish become the first and the largest group of Europe's
dispossessed to cross the Atlantic in a great wave of emigration. . .

In 1845 the population of the island is about 8.5 million. By 1851 it
has fallen to nearer 6.5 million. Of these missing 2 million, it is
calculated that about half are direct victims of the famine and half
are emigrants to America.?

?Ireland's economic problems were in part the result of the small size
of Irish landholdings and a doubling of the population in the
preceding 20 years. Other factors were an almost complete lack of
transport infrastructure to the extent that in years preceding the
famine there was only six miles of railway track and no canals in
Ireland. In particular, both the law and social tradition provided for
subdivision of land, with all sons inheriting equal shares in a farm,
meaning that farms became so small that only one crop, potatoes, could
be grown in sufficient amounts to feed a family. Furthermore many
estates, from whom the small farmers rented, were poorly run by
absentee landlords and in many cases heavily mortgaged.?

?Many thousands of Irish decided to cut their losses and set sail on
emigration boats to America. This is the origin of about half of what
is now referred to as 'Irish America'. Hundreds of Irish died on the
ships which were so overcrowded that they became known as 'coffin
ships'. By 1851, the population had fallen 25% to 6,000,000 and the
emigration continued until around 1900, by which time only 4,500,000
Irish remained in Ireland.

This left huge chunks of abandoned farmland and even today, large
areas of derelict farmland can be seen in Mayo and Galway. Many Irish
felt that the British could have done more and this caused a lot of
anti-British sentiment to arise, particularly in Ireland and among the
Irish who had gone to America.

While there is little doubt that the British could have done more to
prevent the mass deaths in Ireland, some blame must also be attributed
to the over-reliance of the rural Irish on a single food crop and on
the lack of communication routes with England, meaning that many in
Britain were genuinely unaware of what was happening in rural Ireland.
Most visitors to Ireland stayed in the cities, which were largely
unaffected by the famine.?

This is another good article on the Great Famine and the social and
political effects it had within Ireland.

?In November 1845, the government spent 100,000 on buying grain from
America, in the hope of keeping food prices down in Ireland. He
appointed a relief commission which set about forming local committees
to raise money and to distribute food. At Westminster, in part
prompted by Ireland's problems, Peel succeeded in repealing the
protectionist corn laws in June 1846. This opened up the prospect of
cheap imports from America.?

The article goes on to discuss welfare activities and charitable
organization. The Irish peasants had traditionally worked for a
landlord in exchange for a small plot of land for personal crops. They
were not used to a cash-based economy, so free market efforts of the
time did not have the desired effects. Also, the government had hoped
that landlords would bear the brunt of the welfare efforts, but many
of them were in financial ruin themselves. Medical services were
improved by the establishment of ?fever hospitals,? but nearly one
million people died during the famine, and another million emigrated
to escape the hardship.

?The famine was to prove a watershed in Anglo-Irish relations, for the
inadequacy of government measures left an enduring legacy of
bitterness in Ireland and among those thousands of Irish emigrants who
found a new life across the Atlantic.?

This U.K history site has a good article about the Great Famine and
some of the political issues of the day. It suggests two reasons why
government relief efforts fell short during the famine.

?Two issues hampered any work done by the government:

1) The general view in Westminster of the Irish was simply that they
were not worth the effort and that anything that happened there was
their fault.
2) The government also was driven by free trade. There were those who
argued that if the Irish could not survive on the way they lived, then
they should fall by the wayside. Free Trade meant the survival of the

?Debate is ongoing as to whether so many deaths were avoidable. Some
commentators have accused government and landowners of a policy of
deliberate genocide; of cynical exploitation of an event that might
allow an ?over-populated? rural economy to be re-modeled; of
administrative incompetence in failing to supply food as a priority.
Others maintain that the sheer scale of the disaster would have taken
any administration by surprise, and that the starvation was due to a
lack of imagination and inefficiency on the government's part rather
than any deliberate policy.

In some areas there were food riots in the 1840s (England also saw
food riots in 1847), a rise in crime rates and a resurgence in
Nationalism culminating in the ?Young Ireland? rebellion in 1848.?

Here is a page with links to relevant archived documents and other
information regarding the Great Famine.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


By 1948, efforts to start an Irish revolution became strong again and
members of the Young Ireland movement revolted. This insurrection was
easily suppressed by the government, with some of the rebels being
sent to Tasmania as criminals and some escaping to America.

?Among those who cross the Atlantic is John O'Mahony, who begins the
American tradition of support for the Irish republican cause. In 1858
he founds the Fenians, a secret militant organization echoing in its
name the Fianna - the warrior band of the legendary Celtic hero Finn

At the same time a branch is founded in Ireland by James Stephens,
whose Irish Fenians call themselves the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
Of the two it is the American organization which is the more active,
even taking 600 men across the Niagara in 1866 in an ill-fated attack
on British Canada. In Ireland a Fenian uprising is widely expected
during 1867, and various ineffectual attempts are put down by the
authorities. Nevertheless there are explosions, violent deaths and
executions as Fenians try to spring their arrested colleagues from
police custody.

By the end of the 1860s, partly in response to these disruptive
tactics, the mood has swung once more in favour of mainstream
political activity in the cause of Home Rule.?

?In 1858 a new group calling themselves the Irish Republican
Brotherhood or the 'Fenians' was formed with the aim of creating an
independent Irish republic by force. Unlike previous groups, the IRB
had a large support base, particularly from the Irish who had gone to
America. . . . The IRB was the first group to add a religious
(pro-Catholic/anti-Protestant) slant to Republicanism, and this
widened the gap between the [two] religious groups who shared

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

BUTT AND PARNELL (1870-1886)

Isaac Butt, a member of Ireland?s Protestant ruling class and an Irish
member of Parliament, founded the Home Rule association in 1870.

?During the 1870s the Home Rule cause, led in the house of commons by
Isaac Butt, can count on the support of more than fifty members of
parliament. Its programme is limited to Irish autonomy in internal
affairs, with no demand as yet for the rupture of the union itself.

This soon changes after a much more dynamic figure, Charles Stewart
Parnell, is elected member for Meath in 1875. He rapidly takes over
from Butt the leadership of the Home Rule party and introduces a more
vigorously disruptive policy. This includes active obstruction of
parliamentary business at Westminster (to the extent that as many as
thirty-six Irish members are at various times suspended) and the
fomenting of rural unrest in Ireland.?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


The Irish Land League was an ?agrarian organization that worked for
the reform of the country's landlord system under British rule. The
league was founded in October 1879 by Michael Davitt, the son of an
evicted tenant farmer and a member of the Fenian (Irish Republican)
Brotherhood. Davitt asked Charles Stewart Parnell, leader of the Irish
Home Rule Party in the British Parliament, to preside over the league;
this linking of the land reform movement with parliamentary activity
constituted a new departure in the Irish national movement.

The league's program was based upon the ?three F's?: fair rent, fixity
of tenure, and free sale of the right of occupancy. The passage in
1881 of Gladstone's Land Act, restricting the privileges of landlords,
was a victory for the league. Parnell's increasingly violent speeches,
however, led to his arrest on Oct. 13, 1881, and the league called on
tenants to withhold all rents. The government used this ?no-rent
manifesto? as a pretext for its suppression of the league on October

?The Land War in Irish History was a period of agrarian agitation in
rural Ireland in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s. The agitation was led by
the Irish Land League and was dedicated to bettering the position of
tenant farmers and ultimately to a redistribution of land from
landlords to tenants. While there were many violent incidents in this
campaign, it was not actually a ?war,? but rather a prolonged period
of civil unrest.?

The following site had nice information not only on the issues
surrounding land and land ownership, but also general 19th-century
history as well.

?Some areas saw violent 'outrages', from hayrick burning and maiming
farm stock to brutal assault and murder. This became known as the Land
War. Landlords reacted by forming their own Property Defence
Association and bringing in ?emergencymen? as their enforcers. The
British government's reaction seemed to alternate between conciliation
and coercion. On one hand, a temporary Prevention of Crimes Act in
1882 reinforced policing powers and allowed for trial without jury. On
the other, a Land Commission was established in 1881 to adjudicate
fair rents, ban the eviction of those who paid and allow tenants to
sell their interest in a property. The Arrears Act of 1882 wrote off
the debts of tenants of lands worth under 30 a year who had
contracted substantial arrears, confining their liability to a year's
rent, with government paying half the balance and landlords losing the
remainder. Three years later, a Land Purchase Act allowed tenants to
purchase their holdings with a government loan that would be repaid at
less than the annual rent and more legislation followed, eventually
providing for compulsory purchase.?

There is a very nice article detailing the origins and outcomes of the
Irish Land War at the following site.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Scholar and author Douglas Hyde, along with other patriots, founded
the Gaelic League in 1893.

?Their aim is to preserve, and indeed recover, the use of Gaelic as
Ireland's spoken language. The influence of Dublin, and the pressure
of English as the only language in which a career can be made, has
increasingly confined the indigenous Celtic language to the western
areas of Ireland. The league sets about reversing the decline by means
of language classes, magazines, summer schools and poetry festivals.

These activities evoke a warm response, particularly among
middle-class Irish families in the towns. The number of branches
increases from fifty-eight in 1898 to 600 (with a membership of about
100,000) in 1906. The league sees itself essentially as a
non-political organisation, but as elsewhere in the 19th century
language and nationalism are intimately linked.?

The Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in 1884 to promote
?home-grown? Irish sports such as hurling. W.B. Yeats became the
president of the Irish Literary Society in 1892. In 1897, Yeats was a
co-founder of the Irish Literary Theatre (later the Irish National
Theatre Society). In 1899, a nationalist newspaper called the ?United
Irishman? began publication, calling for more political activism from
the Gaelic League.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There is an excellent timeline with links to articles about events and
people of 19th-century Ireland here:

Here is another timeline of Irish history. It contains information for
much more than just the 19th century.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I hope that you find all of this information useful. If you have any
need of further clarification, please let me know how I can help.


Search terms:

19th century Ireland politics
19th century Ireland
Irish "act of union"
"catholic emancipation" Ireland
Irish national land league
Irish land war
great famine
There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy