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Peel and the Irish Problem

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Presentation on theme: "Peel and the Irish Problem"— Presentation transcript:

1 Peel and the Irish Problem

2 Peel and Ireland Peel had plenty of experience in Irish Affairs when he came to power in 1841. He had been Chief Sec. for Ireland 1812-18 and was Home secretary in Wellington’s government when Catholic Emancipation was passed in 1829 The Irish nationalist Daniel O’Connell possibly unfairly nicknamed Peel ‘Orange Peel’ – associating him with protestant opinion in Ireland

3 O’Connell’s Repeal Movement On coming to power Peel was faced with a movement for the repeal of the 1800 Act of Union between England and Ireland which had made Ireland part of the UK. This was led by the ageing Irish nationalist Daniel O’Connell. O’Connell was an peaceful protestor – however there was also a growing ‘Young Ireland’ movement committed to independence for Ireland using any means. Some historians have suggested that Peel’s policy in Ireland indirectly resulted in the growth of such ‘Fenianism’ (militant Irish nationalism)

4 How Effectively did peel deal with the Repeal Movement? O’Connell and his supporters hoped that Chartism would provide a distraction for the British whilst their campaign progressed Peel showed he had no intention of being distracted when in 1843 ne passed a Coercion Act which banned O’Connell’s proposed mass meeting for repeal at Clontarf O’Connell was arrested on a charge of conspiracy and Peel turned his attention to the Irish Problem

5 Consequences of Clontarf Irish nationalism started to move away from O’Connell’s peaceful constitutional means towards more violent means – the British government had shown its colours! Peel introduced a number of measure in an attempt to appeal to moderate opinion in Ireland and improve the lot of Irish peasant farmers

6 Economic Problems Except for a few in the North there were no industries in Ireland and very few raw materials Population was rising quickly and the vast majority had to live off the land – (5 million to 8.25 million 1800-1845) Most of the land was owned by the English or Anglo Irish protestants – the Irish had to rent land to farm it at excessive rents and with short and unextendable leases. Farming was unprogressive and almost medieval – tiny small holdings, no crop rotation, highly labour intensive Living conditions were just about the worst in Europe. The majority of the population lived in single room huts (constructed of mud) and the staple diet was the potato as this was all that could be grown in sufficient bulk to feed the population – this single crop reliance meant that when the potato blight of 1845 arrived a famine occurred which killed over 1 million Irish peasants

7 Peel’s Policy Pre-Famine Peel as a Conservative wanted to ‘conserve’ or keep the Union between England and Ireland. To achieve this he introduce measures to; 1.Improve the lives of ordinary Irish peasant 2.Win over moderate Catholic opinion 3.Resist by coercive measures if necessary movements for Irish nationalism violent or peaceful

8 The Devon Commission 1843 In 1843 Peel appointed Lord Devon to set up a committee to investigate the problem of land tenure in Ireland with the intention of legislating on his recommendations Devon identified 3 main problems 1.Leases – British landlords leased the land to the Irish peasants on very unfavourable terms – high rents, short leases – there was therefore no incentive for those who farmed the land to make improvements in their methods 2.Low Prices - Irish agriculture had been in recession since 1815 – prices were low and much farming little more than subsistence 3.Population growth and lack on industry meant that a rapidly growing population had to be sustained by the land Small holdings, high rents, insecure leases, low prices and rising population all led the Irish to a reliance on the crop which could sustain life the easiest – the potato

9 Peel’s Defeat over Devon Commission In the light of the Devon Commission Peel attempted to pass a law which whilst leaving the terms of existing leases intact would offer financial incentives to tenant farmers who either innovated in farming methods or introduced improvements on their farms. The Bill was rejected overwhelmingly by the Tory Lords

10 Governance for Ireland Peel’s next policy was to introduce a form of separate administration for Ireland – he hoped that this would be more responsive to Irish needs Lord Heytesbury was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and given considerable local powers over infrastructure, transport, the administration of the Poor Law etc. Heytesbury was instructed to listen to and grant concessions to moderate Catholic opinion – a partial success and certainly an improvement on what went before

11 Irish (Provincial) Colleges Bill 1844 Peel’s idea was to improve relations between Catholics and Protestants by introducing non sectarian approach to education. He introduced 3 new Colleges fore Queens College which were to be open to all Irishmen regardless of religion. These were set up in Belfast, Cork and Galway. The measure was resisted furiously by both sides of the divide – Anglicans and ultra Tories saw it as a ‘betrayal’ and O’Connell and the Catholics labelled them as ‘Godless Colleges’

12 The Maynooth Grant 1845 This was a further attempt by peel to win over moderate catholic opinion. Maynooth College was the place where Irish catholic priests were trained. In 1845 Peel granted them an extra 30,000 pounds This was clever – peel saw the crucial role the priesthood had in Ireland Despite a rebellion of 149 Tory M.P’s the bill was passed and the grant given Peel was again subject to accusations of betrayal by Anglicans and Tories

13 The Famine The greatest human tragedy of the 19 th century – I million dies and 0.5 million emigrated The famine pushed Peel into repealing the Corn Laws during the struggle for which he argued that no human foodstuff should be taxed in such circumstances. The repeal of the CLs had little impact on famine, the causes of which were structural and based on the settlement of Ireland in the 16 th century by the English, the appropriation of all the land, the short leases and high rents, rising population and ultimate reliance on one crop. Arguably as a direct result of the Famine and the inadequate response to it by the British, Irish nationalism moved away from the peaceful constitutional approach permanently – indeed there followed a period of violent revolts in Ireland and terrorist attacks in England between 1865-7 called the ‘Fenian Outrages’

14 Coercion Bill and Peel’s resignation Post the Repeal of the CLs Peel’s last act as PM was an attempt to restore order in Ireland by introducing a Coercion Bill which would have allowed for emergency special powers in Ireland. The Bill was defeated by an alliance of ultra Tories still smarting from the CLs, the whigs and the Irish M.P.s and Peel resigned.

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