Catholic Emancipation

Freedom from discrimination and civil disabilities granted to the Roman Catholics of Britain and Ireland in the late 18th and early 19th century.

After the Reformation, Roman Catholics in Britain could not purchase land, hold offices or seats in Parliament, inherit property, or practice their religion without incurring civil penalties. Irish Catholics faced similar limitations. By the late 18th century, Catholicism no longer seemed so great a social and political danger, and a series of laws, culminating in the Emancipation Act of 1829, eased the restrictions. A major figure in the struggle for full emancipation was Daniel O'Connell.

* * *

▪ British and Irish history
      in British history, the freedom from discrimination and civil disabilities granted to the Roman Catholics of Britain (United Kingdom) and Ireland in a series of laws during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. After the Reformation, Roman Catholics in Britain had been harassed by numerous restrictions. In Britain, Roman Catholics could not purchase land, hold civil or military offices or seats in Parliament, inherit property, or practice their religion freely without incurring civil penalties. A Roman Catholic in Ireland could not vote in Parliamentary elections and could be readily dispossessed of his land by his nearest Protestant relative.

      By the late 18th century, however, Roman Catholics had ceased to be considered the social and political danger that they had represented at the beginning of the Hanoverian succession. The first Relief Act (1778) enabled Roman Catholics in Britain to acquire real property, such as land. Similar legislation was enacted in Ireland in a series of measures (1774, 1778, and 1782). In 1791 another bill was passed that enabled British Catholics to practice their religion without fear of civil penalties, a measure applied on a much wider scale by the Irish Parliament with the Relief Act of 1793, which granted Irish Roman Catholics the franchise and admission to most civil offices.

      Further emancipatory measures following the Act of Union (1801), which united Great Britain with Ireland, foundered in the face of resistance from the bitterly anti-Catholic George III and from powerful Irish Protestants and British Tories who feared Roman Catholic participation in Britain's public life. In the next two decades, however, the charismatic Irish lawyer and orator Daniel O'Connell (O'Connell, Daniel) began to mobilize the Irish Roman Catholic peasantry and middle class to agitate for full emancipation. He formed the Catholic Association to this end in 1823, bringing into its ranks hundreds of thousands of members in Ireland. By 1828 the British government was faced with the threat of a nationwide rebellion in Ireland if action was not taken to conciliate this broad-based and energetic movement intent on the alleviation of Catholic grievances. O'Connell himself forced the issue when he entered a Parliamentary by-election in County Clare in 1828, insisting that he would not take his seat until the anti-Roman Catholic oath required of members of Parliament was abolished. O'Connell's ensuing triumphant election compelled the British prime minister, the Duke of Wellington (Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st duke of, marquess of Douro, marquess of Wellington, earl of Wellington, Viscount Wellington of Talavera and of Wellington, Baron Douro or Wellesley), and Sir Robert Peel (Peel, Sir Robert, 2nd Baronet) to carry the Emancipation Act of 1829 in Parliament. This act admitted Irish and English Roman Catholics to Parliament and to all but a handful of public offices. With the Universities Tests Act of 1871, which opened the universities to Roman Catholics, Catholic Emancipation in the United Kingdom was virtually complete.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Catholic Emancipation — ( ga. Fuascailt na gCaitliceach), or Catholic Relief, was a process in Great Britain and Ireland in the late 18th century and early 19th century which involved reducing and removing many of the restrictions on Roman Catholics which had been… …   Wikipedia

  • Catholic emancipation — noun The relief of the Roman Catholics from certain vexatious penal regulations and restrictions, granted in 1829 • • • Main Entry: ↑catholic …   Useful english dictionary

  • CATHOLIC EMANCIPATION —    the name given to the emancipation in 1829 of the Roman Catholics of the United Kingdom from disabilities which precluded their election to office in the State, so that they are eligible now to any save the Lord Chancellorship of England and… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Catholic Emancipation Act — Eng. Hist. an act of Parliament (1829) permitting Roman Catholics to hold parliamentary office and repealing other laws that imposed civil disabilities on Catholics. * * * …   Universalium

  • Catholic Emancipation Act — The statute of 10 Geo. IV, c. 7, by which Roman Catholics were restored, in general, to the full enjoyment of all civil rights, except that of holding ecclesiastical offices, and certain high appointments in the state …   Black's law dictionary

  • Catholic Emancipation Act — Eng. Hist. an act of Parliament (1829) permitting Roman Catholics to hold parliamentary office and repealing other laws that imposed civil disabilities on Catholics …   Useful english dictionary

  • Emancipation — is a term used to describe various efforts to obtain political rights or equality, often for a specifically disenfranchised group, or more generally in discussion of such matters. Among others, Karl Marx discussed political emancipation in his… …   Wikipedia

  • Catholic — • The combination the Catholic Church (he katholike ekklesia) is found for the first time in the letter of St. Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, written about the year 110 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Catholic     Catholic …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Catholic — Cath o*lic (k[a^]th [ o]*[i^]k), a. [L. catholicus, Gr. kaqoliko s, universal, general; kata down, wholly + o los whole, probably akin to E. solid: cf. F. catholique.] 1. Universal or general; as, the catholic faith. [1913 Webster] Men of other… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Catholic epistles — Catholic Cath o*lic (k[a^]th [ o]*[i^]k), a. [L. catholicus, Gr. kaqoliko s, universal, general; kata down, wholly + o los whole, probably akin to E. solid: cf. F. catholique.] 1. Universal or general; as, the catholic faith. [1913 Webster] Men… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.