This is the fifth in a series of seven blog posts highlighting and summarizing important events in Irish history and Burns Library resources which aid in further study of the topic. Burns Library holds many Irish history resources and is an invaluable resource for scholars in this field.
This post focuses on Catholic emancipation in early 19th century Ireland. Catholic emancipation would remove the final legal restrictions against Catholics, allowing Catholics to serve in government office and vote. These restrictions were the last vestiges of the Penal Laws imposed on Irish Catholics in the late 17th century to mitigate Catholic power and influence in Ireland. Burns Library holds many monographs focusing on Catholic emancipation itself and Daniel O’Connell, a main figure in the emancipation efforts. We hold several sets of volumes of O’Connell’s correspondence and speeches as compiled by historians, one of whom, W.J. FitzPatrick, claims that “the secret thoughts and acts of one who played a part so important cannot be without interest to the reader, or value to the historian.” (FitzPatrick 1888, 6) Burns Library also holds a number of original letters written by Daniel O’Connell in the Daniel O’Connell Collection as well as books he owned.
Catholic emancipation had been sought through several avenues at the end of the 18th century. There had been an effort to include Catholic emancipation in the Act of Union of 1800, but this was rejected due to opposition within parliament as well as by the king himself. Before that, Catholic emancipation had also been a feature of United Irishmen ideology: to support Irishness as the main unifying identity within Ireland and tear down existing religious divides between Irish Protestants, Catholics, and Dissenters (see The 1798 Rebellion). Continue reading