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Irish grievances, 1844

Since the passing of the Act of Union in 1801, Irish political leaders had been trying to have the legislation repealed. Catholic Emancipation was given in 1829; Daniel O'Connell continued to campaign for Home Rule. He declared 1843 the "year of the great repeal" but failed in the attempt. He wrote this letter to Mr Charles Buller, a Radical in 1844, stating the grounds for Irish discontent with English rule.

I am not telling you what would satisfy me personally, but I will tell you what I know would deprive me of many of my present adherents . . . what I think would mitigate the present ardent desire for repeal.

Firstly, establishing perfect religious equality, which could be done in either of two ways: the one would be the paying all religious instructors of Catholics and Episcopalian Protestants; the second way, . . . the right one, the paying neither clergy..

Secondly, . . . to restore the law of landlord and tenant to the state it was in at the time of the Union. There have since the Union (I think) been seven statutes passed enhancing the landlord’s power of distraint and eviction.

Thirdly, the county franchise is becoming totally extinct. . The basis .... must be extended to the people at large...

Fourthly, the Corporate Reform Bill for Ireland should be made equally potential with the corporate reform for England and Scotland.

Fifthly, our town constituencies should be rendered more extensive; and the old freemen, an ancient political nuisance, should be abolished.

Sixthly, the income tax upon Irish absentees should be increased five-fold.

Seventhly, the question of fixity of tenure should be taken into the most deliberate consideration.

I have thus, my dear Buller, candidly given you the elements of the destruction of my political power... But I do not expect any important result from your exertions. The British people will think of doing justice to Ireland, as they did to America, when too late. . . . The Whigs won’t do it: the principal part of them will necessarily be under the control of Lord John Russell; and he will never permit anything like justice to be done to the Catholic people of this country. I know him well. He has a thorough, contemptuous, Whig hatred of the Irish. He has a strong and, I believe, conscientious abhorrence of Popery everywhere, but ... particularly of Irish Popery... You cannot succeed, it is impossible. Your countrymen are too deeply imbued in national antipathy. You have injured us too deeply, too cruelly, ever to forgive us.

Spencer Walpole, Life of Lord John Russell (1891) p. 411

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Last modified 4 March, 2016

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