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Catholic emancipation

Nancy LoPatin-Lummis


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Catholic emancipation was the popular campaign in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to end political restrictions on the Catholics of the United Kingdom, which had been established by the Act of Uniformity, the Test Act, and the Penal Laws. Daniel O'Connell (1775–1847), a Catholic lawyer, was the primary mover in establishing, organizing, and leading the campaign for Catholic emancipation and removing political restrictions from Catholics in the United Kingdom through the strategic use of cultivating and organizing the unenfranchised in extraparliamentary political organizations and exerting the force of popular opinion on a variety of governments. The first Catholic Relief Act, passed in 1778, allowed Catholics to own and inherit land as well as join the military. However, popular discontent at the end of the century, most notably the Great Rebellion of 1798 led by Theobald Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen , only grew with the Act of Union in 1800. This granted Irish Protestant landowners representation in Westminster and the British government full political and legal authority over Ireland. Prime Minister William Pitt consistently promised that legislation abolishing political restrictions on Catholics would follow, but Catholic emancipation legislation failed to pass in 1801 and then again in 1807. Thus, about 80 percent of Ireland remained disenfranchised ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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