Theobald Wolfe Tone was one of the founding members of the United Irishmen, and was also a well-known supporter of Catholic emancipation. This paper will examine how Tone's Argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland, published the first of August, 1791, changed the way that reformers in Ireland regarded the question of Catholic emancipation.
The Catholic Penal laws, instituted at the beginning of the century to prevent the Catholic majority from gaining any political or economic power, gave rise to tensions which increased rather than decreased with time.
[...] The greatest fear that Tone seems to think Protestants have is that extending the franchise of parliamentary representation to Catholics would result in a completely catholic parliament. He asserts again that Catholics have the same interests in peace and liberty that protestants have. He also comforts them with the knowledge that such a thing would never occur, seeing as how protestants have more property and power, and if they're still afraid of parliamentary dominance by Catholics, then they can extend the vote only to the very rich Catholics, in order to reduce their number. [...]
[...] One of the first acts of the Belfast United Irishmen was to produce a 3d. edition of the Argument, printing ten thousand copies to circulate (Curtin 181). Because of Wolfe Tone's Argument, those hoping for parliamentary reform in Ireland were able to set aside religious prejudices enough to acknowledge that Catholic emancipation was necessary to attain that reform, and that resolve became one of the main platforms of the United Irish movement. Bibliography Primary : Tone, Theobald Wolfe, Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone 1763-98 [...]
[...] It inherently directed radicals in Belfast to initiate a political alliance between Catholics and Protestants for to gain emancipation and further the cause of reform (Curtin 181). Tone's propagandizing of the Catholic cause did much to overcome prejudices in Belfast (Curtin 44). He managed to persuade the Dissenters that enemy of my enemy is my friend,” convincing them that only a popular movement involving Irishmen of all faiths would be successful in throwing off the influence of England in their governing. [...]
[...] plunge them by law, and continue them by statute, in gross ignorance and then we make the incapacity we have created an argument for their exclusion from the common rights of (Tone 119) He cites the Catholics of France who were just as uneducated as the Catholics of Ireland and yet were still prepared for liberty. “Liberty is the vital principal of man: he that is prepared to live is prepared for freedom.” (Tone 120) The power of the pope to interfere with secular affairs has lessoned, Tone says, and there is no reason to believe that emancipation would result in Rome taking over Ireland. [...]
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