Catholic Association

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXIV

In 1747 George Stone succeeded Dr. Hoadley as Primate of Ireland. His appointment was made evidently more in view of temporals than spirituals, and he acted accordingly. Another undignified squabble took place in 1751 and 1753, between the English and Irish Parliaments, on the question of privilege. For a time the "patriot" or Irish party prevailed; but eventually they yielded to the temptation of bribery and place. Henry Boyle, the Speaker, was silenced by being made Earl of Shannon; Anthony Malone was made Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the opposition party was quietly broken up.

An attempt was now made to form a Catholic Association, and to obtain by combination and quiet pressure what had been so long denied to resistance and military force. Dr. Curry, a physician practising in Dublin, and the author of the well-known Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars of Ireland ; Charles O'Connor, of Belanagar, the Irish antiquary, and Mr. Wyse, of Waterford, were the projectors and promoters of this scheme. The clergy stood aloof from it, fearing to lose any liberty they still possessed if they demanded more; the aristocracy held back, fearing to forfeit what little property yet remained to them, if they gave the least excuse for fresh "settlements" or plunderings.

A few Catholic merchants, however, joined the three friends; and in conjunction they prepared an address to the Duke of Bedford, who was appointed Lord Lieutenant in 1757. The address was favourably received, and an answer returned after some time. The Government already had apprehensions of the French invasion, and it was deemed politic to give the Catholics some encouragement, however faint. It is at least certain that the reply declared, "the zeal and attachment which they [the Catholics] professed, would never be more seasonably manifested than at the present juncture."

Charles Lucas now began his career of patriotism; for at last Irish Protestants were beginning to see, that if Irish Catholics suffered, Irish interests would suffer also; and if Irish interests suffered, they should have their share in the trial. A union between England and Ireland, such as has since been carried out, was now proposed, and violent excitement followed. A mob, principally composed of Protestants, broke into the House of Lords; but the affair soon passed over, and the matter was dropped.