Ireland in the 1790's
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Ireland experienced a number of revolutions in the 1790’s. These revolutions were led by various rebellion groups among them, was the United Irishmen which organized the bloodiest revolution in the history of Ireland in 1798 (Connolly 57). The United Irishmen through their revolutions brought political changes to their country. This organization was formed in 1791 by a group of Anglicans and Presbyterians. Their objective was to lobby for more representation of the people of Ireland irrespective of whether they were Protestants or Catholics. They were dedicated to reforming the country’s political life. It was not until 1793 that Catholics in Ireland were given the right to vote. For the last two centuries before the 1798 revolution, only Anglicans could be elected to political seats (Smyth 205). They were the landlords and owned large chunks of land. On the other hand, though large in population, many Catholics were peasants and had no voice in politics. The rebels were largely inspired by the success of the French Revolution which enhanced freedom and rights of its people. Another objective of the United Irishmen society was to persuade the government and the parliament to amend the constitution so as to ensure all Irish people are incorporated in governance. They pushed for an independent republic. The society became a secret revolution. It even tried to persuade the French government to send troops to aid their revolution. The society grew with time and by middle of their leaders mobilized them to overthrow the regime. They hoped for a bloodless coup but what turned out was a series of massacres around the country with the worst hit county being Wexford.
As a result of the rebels, the government realized the danger such rebels could pose and it moved quickly to intervene. Most of the rebel leaders were captured but this did not deter the rebels from fighting for the rights of the minority. More rebellious groups were formed in the rural areas. Though the groups never worked together their main objective was to bring an end the system of government at the time. The groups were spread all over the country and more people were willing to join them in their fight for a republic Ireland. The United Irishmen society continued to push for economic and religious reforms. With the support of Prime Minister Pitt, catholic were allowed to vote but could not contest for high offices. The Protestants Orange Society emerges seeking for land and Protestant control. Competition for land around this time was fueled by the high population. There had been a high rate of population growth around this time with the majority being Catholics and Protestants. Due to Religious divisions, Anglicans were the landowners and they occupied all elective posts in the parliament (Fintan 112). They discriminated other religious groups from power and wealth. Most of these people were peasants who worked for the Anglicans in their farms. They were treated as animals, their children unable to attend school as they had to work for a living. These are some of the problems non-Anglicans faced before they went into a revolution.
The Anglicans levied high taxes on their lands making it even harder for Catholics to rent them. Instead they used them to graze their cows. Furthermore, the Catholics and other Protestants were not represented in parliament. This meant that there was no one to listen to their problems and fight for their rights at the National Assembly. The Catholics faced many problems forcing others to migrate to other countries such as United States. Many laws that were passed in Ireland were aimed at weakening the Catholics and Protestants. Ireland experienced religious divisions which determined the success of individual.
The French Revolution enhanced the prospects of reform as attention focused on the government to change their aristocratic system. Leading opposition leaders such John Forbes, Henry Grattan and Whig Club fought hard for parliamentary reforms and Catholic enfranchisement. Catholic committee on the other hand appealed to the British government and this put pressure on the Irish administration. As a result, the Irish ministers removed most of the restrictions on Catholics in employment, education and politically. Despite all of this, the Catholics felt all their demands were not honored and so they organized a Catholic Convention to press for admission into politics. In 1793, the ministers agreed to allow Catholics participation in politics. Another rebellious movement that emerged during this period was the Defender. The Defender was a big movement and had links with France. They pressed for anti-tax and anti-tithe initiatives. Defenders originated from the rural areas and comprised of weavers, laborers, and tenant farmers. By 1795 there were more than 4000 Defenders with links to popular republican clubs in the city. The Defenders were led by successful Catholic families at the regional level. These families provided a link between the Defenders and the United Irishmen. Government troops led a number of attacks against the Catholics (Connolly 97). In the process, they created sectarianism among the Defenders, but this was noted later when most of their leaders were killed. The 1978 rebellion represented an anti-colonial struggle. People were now able to move to centre stage and ensure that the governments run according to their expectation. They were no longer the servants of the wealthy but instead a mob that could overthrow the government.
So as to counter attack the Catholic movements, the British government introduced a strategy aimed at encouraging the growth of sectarianism in order to create division among the workers and peasants of Ireland. The government introduced barriers to the link between the United Irishmen and Defender territories; it put protestants together in a pro-government movement and it split the Catholic – Presbyterian alliance. Orange Order was established around this time for groups loyal to the government. Its members were given immunity; almost all magistrates in Ulster belonged to the Orange Order, and thus justice was hindered. Cases were decided in favor of the Protestants at the expense of the Catholics. From 1796, the British government carried out a campaign of terror against the Irishmen and the Defenders. The rule of law was suspended and troops ordered to take action against the people. Hundreds of men were seized from their homes and sent to jail without trial while others were simply killed. The general population was terrorized in a number of ways; their houses were burnt, crops destroyed, food and goods confiscated, and rape.
In 1801, the Irish parliament is absorbed by the Westminster parliament as Ireland gets into a union with Great Britain. Catholics are granted most of their demands giving them a voice in decision making processes. Over time, Catholics become powerful as most of them are elected to the parliament. Famine is common and secret societies continue their attacks against the British rule. As time passes, more Acts are passed to look into the land policy so as to ensure that equity prevails. The revolutions marked the start of a new system of government that respected its citizens irrespective of their religion and ethnicity. Such revolutions inspired other countries to demand for their independence. They motivated the minority groups to rise against the oppression of the wealthy. It is as a result of these revolutions that Irish people are treated equally. Currently, Ireland is a well established economy able to provide jobs and housing to its growing population. Its government is neutral to world affairs and its citizens are governed by the rule of law. Unlike in the past, freedom of expression is a fundamental right for its citizens. Being in the union with Great Britain has improved their relations with the outside world facilitating trade and industrialization in the country. Their parliament has all the religious groups well represented and issues raised listened and measures taken. The issue of discrimination is far gone from their lives and cases of racism are few. The government has well set up goals to improving the lives of its people through provision of good health, quality education and equal accessibility to opportunities. Most of the changes seen in Ireland are directly attributed to the revolutions that took place in the 1790s.
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