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|Eighteenth century to present|
Catholic emancipation or Catholic relief was a process in the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, and later the combined United Kingdom in the late 18th century and early 19th century, that involved reducing and removing many of the restrictions on Roman Catholics introduced by the Act of Uniformity [ disambiguation needed ], the Test Acts and the penal laws. Requirements to abjure (renounce) the temporal and spiritual authority of the pope and transubstantiation placed major burdens on Roman Catholics.
The penal laws started to be dismantled from 1766. The most significant measure was the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, which removed the most substantial restrictions on Roman Catholicism in the United Kingdom.
In Canada, British since 1763, the Quebec Act of 1774 ended some restrictions on Roman Catholics, so much so that it was criticized in the Petition to George III submitted in October 1774 by the First Continental Congress of the Thirteen Colonies.
In Great Britain and, separately, in Ireland, the first Relief Act, called the "Papists Act", was passed in 1778; subject to an oath renouncing Stuart claims to the throne and the civil jurisdiction of the pope, it allowed Roman Catholics to own property and to inherit land. Reaction against this led to riots in Scotland in 1779 and then the Gordon Riots in London on 2 June 1780.
Further relief was given by an Act of 1782 allowing the establishment of Roman Catholic schools and bishops. The British Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 was adopted by the Irish Parliament in 1792–93. Since the electoral franchise at the time was largely determined by property, this relief gave the votes to Roman Catholics holding land with a rental value of £2 a year. They also started to gain access to many middle-class professions from which they had been excluded, such as the legal profession, grand jurors, universities and the lower ranks of the army and judiciary.
The issue of greater political emancipation was considered in 1800 at the time of the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland: it was not included in the text of the Act because this would have led to greater Irish Protestant opposition to the Union. Non-conformists also suffered from discrimination at this time, but it was expected to be a consequence given the proportionately small number of Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom as a whole.
William Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister, had promised emancipation to accompany the Act. No further steps were taken at that stage, however, in part because of the belief of King George III that it would violate his Coronation Oath. Pitt resigned when the King's opposition became known, as he was unable to fulfill his pledge. Catholic emancipation then became a debating point rather than a major political issue.
The increasing number of Irish Catholics serving in the British army led to the army giving freedom of worship to Catholic soldiers in 1811.Their contribution in the Napoleonic wars may have contributed to the support of Wellington (himself Irish-born, though Protestant) for emancipation.
In 1823, Daniel O'Connell started a campaign for emancipation by establishing the Catholic Association. In 1828 he stood for election in County Clare in Ireland and was elected even though he could not take his seat in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. He repeated this feat in 1829.
O'Connell's manoeuvres were important, but the decisive turning point came with the change in public opinion in Britain in favour of emancipation. Politicians understood the critical importance of public opinion. They were influenced as well by the strong support for the measure by the Whigs in the House of Lords and by the followers of Lord Grenville (1759–1834). The increasing strength of public opinion, as expressed in the newspapers and elections over a twenty-year period, overcame religious bias and deference to the crown, first in the House of Commons and then in the House of Lords. Every member of parliament elected after 1807, with one exception, announced his support for Emancipation.[ citation needed ] Despite this, the votes in the House of Lords were consistently negative, in part because of the king's own opposition. The balance of opinion in the House of Lords shifted abruptly in 1828–29 in response to public opinion, especially reflecting fear of a religious civil war in Ireland.[ citation needed ] In 1828 the Sacramental Test Act removed the barrier that required certain public officials to be members of the established Church.
Finally, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel changed positions and passed the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829. This removed many of the remaining substantial restrictions on Roman Catholics throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, at the same time the minimum property qualification for voters was increased, rising from a rental value of forty shillings (£2) per annum to £10 per annum, substantially reducing the number of those entitled to vote, although after 1832 the threshold was again lowered in successive Reform Acts. The major beneficiaries were the Roman Catholic middle classes, who could now enter careers in the higher civil service and in the judiciary. The year 1829 is therefore generally regarded as marking the chief moment of Emancipation in Britain and Ireland.
The obligation, however, to pay tithes to the established Anglican church in Ireland remained, resulting in the Tithe War of the 1830s, and many other minor disabilities remained. A series of further reforms were introduced over time.
The Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights 1689 provisions on the monarchy still discriminate against Roman Catholics. The Bill of Rights requires a new monarch to swear a coronation oath to maintain the Protestant religion and asserts that "it hath been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant Kingdom to be governed by a Papist Prince".
The Act of Settlement (1701) went further, limiting the succession to the heirs of the body of Sophia of Hanover, provided that they do not "professe the Popish religion", "marry a Papist", "be reconciled to or ... hold Communion with the See or Church of Rome".
A Roman Catholic heir can therefore only inherit the throne by changing religious allegiance. Ever since the Papacy recognized the Hanoverian dynasty in January 1766, none of the immediate royal heirs has been a Roman Catholic, and thereby disallowed by the Act. Many more distantly related potential Roman Catholic heirs are listed on the line of succession to the British throne. Section 2 of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, and similar provisions in the law of other signatories to the Perth Agreement, allow marriage by such an heir to a Roman Catholic.
The slowness of liberal reform between 1771 and 1829 led to much bitterness in Ireland, which underpinned Irish nationalism until recent times. Fresh from his success in 1829, O'Connell launched his Repeal Association in the 1830s and 1840s, hoping but failing to repeal the Acts of Union 1800.
It was not until the 1920s that the last of the disabilities were removed from the statute book by MP Francis Blundell.
The Persecution of Huguenots under Louis XV had diminished by 1764. The dechristianization of France in 1790–1801, the anti-Catholic Kulturkampf in Germany in the 1870s and the progress of Jewish emancipation present interesting comparisons of toleration at the European level. Protestant sentiments in Ireland, on the other hand, were greatly alarmed by the possibility of Roman Catholic political influence on future government s, which brought about equally long-lasting bitter resistance by the Orange Order, alleging that "Home Rule was Rome Rule". Liberal rights came slowly to the Papal States as well, and well-publicised cases such as the Mortara affair were a concern to liberals in America and Europe in the 1860s.
Roman Catholics in Quebec had a grandfathered level of religious freedom, including the ability to serve in that colony's legislative body without having to take a Test Oath denouncing their faith. This policy continued in both successor provinces of Lower Canada and Upper Canada. The prohibitions and restrictions on Catholic participation in legislative affairs elsewhere in British North America applied until 1823, when Laurence Kavanagh was seated in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly as the first representative of Cape Breton Island and the first English-speaking Roman Catholic to serve in a legislature in the Atlantic provinces.
The granting of Roman Catholic emancipation in Newfoundland was less straightforward than it was in Ireland, and this question had a significant influence on the wider struggle for a legislature. Almost from its first settlement, Newfoundland had a significant population of Roman Catholics, largely because George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore, was the founding proprietor of the Province of Avalon on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. After Calvert himself converted to Rome in 1625, he migrated to Avalon, intending his colony there to serve as a refuge for his persecuted fellow-religionists. Newfoundland, however, like Calvert's other colony in the Province of Maryland, ultimately passed out of the Calvert family's control, and its Roman Catholic population became subject to essentially the same religious restrictions that applied in other areas under British control. In the period from 1770 to 1800, the Governors of Newfoundland had begun to relax restrictions on Roman Catholics, permitting the establishment of French and Irish missions. On visiting St. John's in 1786, Prince William Henry (the future King William IV) noted that "there are ten Roman Catholics to one Protestant",and the Prince worked to counter the early relaxations of ordinances against this substantial majority.
News of emancipation reached Newfoundland in May 1829, and 21 May was declared a day of celebration. In St. John's there was a parade and a thanksgiving Mass was celebrated at the Chapel, attended by the Benevolent Irish Society and the Catholic-dominated Mechanics' Society. Vessels in the harbour flew flags and discharged guns in salute.
Most people assumed that Roman Catholics would pass unhindered into the ranks of public office and enjoy equality with Protestants. But on 17 December 1829, the attorney general and supreme court justices decided that the Roman Catholic Relief Act did not apply to Newfoundland, because the laws repealed by the act had never applied there, being a colony and not part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. As each governor's commission had been granted by royal prerogative and not by the statute laws of the British Parliament, Newfoundland had no choice but to be left with whatever existing local regulations discriminated against Roman Catholics.
On 28 December 1829 the St. John's Roman Catholic Chapel was packed with an emancipation meeting, where petitions were sent from O'Connell to the British Parliament, asking for full rights for Newfoundland Roman Catholics as British subjects. More than any previous event or regulation, the failure of the British government to grant emancipation renewed the strident claims by Newfoundland Reformers for a colonial legislature. There was no immediate reaction from London, but the question of Newfoundland was now before the British Colonial Office. It was not until May 1832 that the British Secretary of State for the Colonies formally stated that a new commission would be issued to Governor Cochrane to remove any and all Roman Catholic disabilities in Newfoundland.
The Acts of Union 1800 were parallel acts of the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland which united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The acts came into force on 1 January 1801, and the merged Parliament of the United Kingdom had its first meeting on 22 January 1801.
Daniel O'Connell, often referred to as The Liberator or The Emancipator, was an Irish political leader in the first half of the 19th century. He campaigned for Catholic emancipation—including the right for Catholics to sit in the Westminster Parliament, denied for over 100 years—and repeal of the Acts of Union which combined Great Britain and Ireland.
In English history, penal law refers to a specific series of laws that sought to uphold the establishment of the Church of England against Protestant nonconformists and Catholicism, by imposing various forfeitures, civil penalties, and civil disabilities upon these dissenters. The penal laws in general were repealed in the 19th century during the process of Catholic Emancipation. Penal actions are civil in nature and were not English common law.
The Test Acts were a series of English penal laws that served as a religious test for public office and imposed various civil disabilities on Roman Catholics and nonconformists. The principle was that none but people taking communion in the established Church of England were eligible for public employment, and the severe penalties pronounced against recusants, whether Catholic or nonconformist, were affirmations of this principle. In practice nonconformists were often exempted from some of these laws through the regular passage of Acts of Indemnity. After 1800 they were seldom enforced, except at Oxbridge, where nonconformists and Catholics could not matriculate (Oxford) or graduate (Cambridge). The Conservative government repealed them in 1828 with little controversy.
Cisalpinism was a movement among English Roman Catholics in the late eighteenth century intended to further the cause of Catholic emancipation, i.e. relief from many of the restrictions still in effect that were placed on Roman Catholic British subjects. This view held that allegiance to the Crown was not incompatible with allegiance to the Pope.
John FitzGibbon, 1st Earl of Clare PC (Ire) was Attorney-General for Ireland from 1783 to 1789 and Lord Chancellor of Ireland from 1789 to 1802.
The Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, passed by Parliament in 1829, was the culmination of the process of Catholic Emancipation throughout the United Kingdom. In Ireland it repealed the Test Act 1672 and the remaining Penal Laws which had been in force since the passing of the Disenfranchising Act of the Irish Parliament of 1728. Its passage followed a vigorous campaign that threatened insurrection led by Irish lawyer Daniel O'Connell. The British leaders, starting with the Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington and his top aide Robert Peel, although personally opposed, gave in to avoid civil strife. Ireland was quiet after the passage.
The 1830 United Kingdom general election was triggered by the death of King George IV and produced the first parliament of the reign of his successor, William IV. Fought in the aftermath of the Swing Riots, it saw electoral reform become a major election issue. Polling took place in July and August and the Tories won a plurality over the Whigs, but division among Tory MPs allowed Earl Grey to form an effective government and take the question of electoral reform to the country the following year.
The Catholic Association was an Irish Roman Catholic political organisation set up by Daniel O'Connell in the early nineteenth century to campaign for Catholic emancipation within Great Britain. It was one of the first mass-membership political movements in Europe. It organized large-scale public protests in Ireland. British Home Secretary Robert Peel was alarmed and warned an associate of his in 1824, "We cannot tamely sit by while the danger is hourly increasing, while a power co-ordinate with that of the Government is rising by its side, nay, daily counteracting its views." The Duke of Wellington, Britain's prime minister and its most famous war hero, told Peel, "If we cannot get rid of the Catholic Association, we must look to civil war in Ireland sooner or later." To stop the momentum of the Catholic Association it was necessary to pass Catholic Emancipation, and so Wellington and Peel turned enough Tory votes to win. Passage demonstrated that the veto power long held by the Ultra-Tories faction of reactionary Tories no longer was operational, and significant reforms were now possible.
In the history of Ireland, the Penal Laws were a series of laws imposed in an attempt to force Irish Catholics and Protestant dissenters to accept the established Church of Ireland. The majority of the penal laws were removed in the period 1778–1793 with the last of them of any significance being removed in 1829. Notwithstanding, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland by the Government of Ireland Act 1920 contained an all purpose clause removing any that might technically still then be in existence.
The Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain passed in 1791 relieving Roman Catholics of certain political, educational, and economic disabilities. It admitted Catholics to the practice of law, permitted the exercise of their religion, and the existence of their schools. On the other hand, chapels, schools, officiating priests and teachers were to be registered, assemblies with locked doors, as well as steeples and bells to chapels, were forbidden; priests were not to wear vestments or celebrate liturgies in the open air; children of Protestants were not to be admitted to the schools; monastic orders and endowments of schools and colleges were prohibited.
The Papists Act of 1778 is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain and was the first Act for Roman Catholic relief. Later in 1778 It was also enacted by the Parliament of Ireland.
The English Protestant Reformation was imposed by the English Crown, and submission to its essential points was exacted by the State with post-Reformation oaths. With some solemnity, by oath, test, or formal declaration, English churchmen and others were required to assent to the religious changes, starting in the sixteenth century and continuing for more than 250 years.
The Roman Catholic Relief Bills were a series of measures introduced over time in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries before the Parliaments of Great Britain and the United Kingdom to remove the restrictions and prohibitions imposed on British and Irish Catholics during the English Reformation. These restrictions had been introduced to enforce the separation of the English church from the Catholic Church which began in 1529 under Henry VIII.
Father Arthur O'Leary, O.F.M.Cap was an Irish Capuchin preacher and polemical writer.
Anti-Catholicism in the United Kingdom has its origins in the English and Irish Reformations under King Henry VIII and the Scottish Reformation led by John Knox. Within England the Act of Supremacy 1534 declared the English crown to be "the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England" in place of the pope. Any act of allegiance to the latter was considered treasonous because the papacy claimed both spiritual and political power over its followers. Ireland was brought under direct English control starting in 1536 during the Tudor conquest of Ireland. The Scottish Reformation in 1560 abolished Catholic ecclesiastical structures and rendered Catholic practice illegal in Scotland. Today, anti-Catholicism is common in peripheral areas of the United Kingdom, mainly Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Sacramental Test Act 1828 was an Act passed by the British Parliament. It repealed the requirement that government officials take communion in the Church of England. Sir Robert Peel took the lead for the Tory government in the repeal and collaborated with Anglican Church leaders.
The Jews Relief Act 1858, also called the Jewish Disabilities Bill, is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which removed previous barriers to Jews entering Parliament.
The Toleration Act 1688, also referred to as the Act of Toleration, was an Act of the Parliament of England, which received the royal assent on 24 May 1689.
The Clare by-election of 1828 was notable as this was the first time since the reformation that an openly Roman Catholic MP, Daniel O'Connell was elected.