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Wolfe Tone's Argument for Catholic Emancipation in 18th-Century Ireland

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  1. Tone's Argument asserts the reason why Ireland is in the inglorious state that it is in.
  2. The problem, Tone says, is that Ireland has no national government.
  3. 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.
  4. Tone's propagandizing of the Catholic cause did much to overcome prejudices in Belfast .
  5. Six weeks after the initial publication of Tone's Argument, the ?Agreement to form an association of United Irishmen? was signed on September 16, 1791

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 [...]

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