Manuscripts and Special Collections

Catholic Emancipation

Diary extracts (with transcripts) and other useful sources are discussed below.  Where possible, images of the source items have been provided and can be viewed online.


Extracts from the Duke's diaries

3 January 1824 (Ne 2F 1, p. 146)

An extraordinary meeting of the R Cath[o]l[ic]s in Ireland where they agreed, after a curious debate in which Mr O'Connell was the principal, to petition Parl[iamen]t to repeal the Tythe Commutation Bill - nothing will please these men, but the destruction of the Church - altho' nothing could be more hurtful to it that [sic] this very bill -

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The issue of 'Catholic Emancipation' - the granting of civic and political rights to Catholics - dominated political debate from the Act of Union in 1800 until the passage of the Catholic Relief Act in 1829. The formation of the Catholic Association, in 1823, gave the cause new prominence. Newcastle maintained a close eye on the Association's proceedings and was an outspoken critic of its leader, the energetic Irish lawyer Daniel O'Connell.

For more on the Association's opposition to the Tithe Commutation Bill in 1824, see the report at Ne 2F/1/1 p. 227

3 October 1824 (Ne 2F 1, pp. 227-228)

A Meeting of Roman Catholics took [place] at Birmingham this week for the purpose of establishing a branch Association as recommended by the Central Board & Association in London - The Association was formed & organised & it appears that already branch Associations are formed at Preston & at Manchester - At the Meeting Mr Blount, Secretary to the London Association acted as Chairman & a Revd Mr Mcdonald took a prominent part, as a curious coincidence a Mr Canning a R.C also bore a conspicuous part in the meeting - The language used was extremely unguarded & intemperate, violent declamation against their opponents and the most extraordinary daring language against the Church of England - The tone throughout was that of [strikethrough: entire] high assurance & assured conviction that nothing now stood in the way of their regaining all their political rights - The conduct of the Ministers & concession to the Popish Earl Marshal [Bernard Edward Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk] have given this unwonted spirit - The whole is clearly poison to the National Welfare! -

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Support for the Catholic Association was not confined to Ireland, as this diary entry makes clear. Newcastle was frequently concerned at the Association's opposition to the Church of England. He also opposed any symptom of government conciliation towards the Catholics. For example, Newcastle opposed the Bill which allowed the Catholic Duke of Norfolk to exercise his functions as Earl Marshal in the House of Lords in person. Norfolk owned Worksop Manor and was one of Newcastle's Nottinghamshire neighbours.

4 November 1824 (Ne 2F 1, p.239)

The Roman Catholic Association in Dublin, have ordered the King's Picture to be put up over their Chair, to signify their loyalty & attachment to a Constitutional King, the defender, founded & supported! Matchless impudence & Effrontery - !! - The Roman Catholic Association in Dublin, have ordered they say, of that glorious Constitution which their Ancestors

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Many Catholics argued that their support for Emancipation did not make them opponents of the British monarchy or the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. Newcastle doubted this and regarded Emancipation as the first step towards repealing the Act of Union.

For a report of this meeting, see the extract Ne 2F 2/48.

14 October 1828 (Ne 2F 3, p.72-73)

The clergy in the neighbourhood of Maidstone have drawn up & numerously signed a Declaration, exposing the dangers of Popery, the evils arising from it, the necessity of resisting it & of supplanting by their utmost exertions the Established Religion, & [strikethrough: by] of opposing the spirit of latitudinarianism & liberalism which was leading us to infidelity & Atheism - I trust that this example will be followed by the whole body of the English Clergy -

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Newcastle was a keen supporter of declarations and statements in support of the established Church of England. He regarded the Anglican clergy as the front-line in the battle against Catholicism.

For the declaration in question, see the extract Ne 2F 3/13.

21 March 1829 (Ne 2F 4, p.129)

On presenting the General petition from Ireland with 150 [sic, meaning 150,000] signatures, the Duke of Cumberland made an excellent speech, calculated in Every way to do good & appeared to have been received by the House [of Lords] with the warmest & long continued cheers - we are certainly going on well & make a better figure in defence of right, than our antagonists make in recommending wrong -

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Ultra-Tory peers such as Winchilsea, Falmouth, Eldon, Newcastle and George IV's brother, the Duke of Cumberland, provided political and social leadership for the 'Protestants' in the campaign against Catholic Emancipation. They took a prominent role in opposing the Catholic Relief Bill in the House of Lords, through presenting petitions and making speeches. They also tried to influence the King, in the hope that he would dismiss Wellington's government and reject the Bill.

For Cumberland's speech, see the extract Ne 2F 3/7.


Other relevant sources

Use the links to view images of these sources.  Transcripts are available for download:


The Catholic Campaign 1823-9

This series of newspaper reports reveals how Newcastle gained some of his information on Irish events during the period. The fact that Newcastle saved these extracts and stored them with his diary shows that he thought them significant. The historian can compare their contents with Newcastle's reactions, as recorded in his diary.

Political Views

Throughout the 1820s, Robert Peel was regarded as the leading parliamentary opponent of Catholic Emancipation. As a former Chief Secretary to Ireland (1812-18) and Home Secretary (1822-7, 1828-30), Peel had widespread knowledge of - and responsibility for - Irish affairs. Newcastle encouraged Peel's resistance to Emancipation, especially during the discussion of Catholic Relief Bills in 1821 and 1825 (Ne C 5266). Newcastle wrote to Peel, as Home Secretary, seeking action against the Catholic Association. In his diary for 24 October 1824, Newcastle noted that Peel's letter (Ne C 5267) was 'satisfactory inasmuch as that he tells me he is alive to the importance of the subject & keeps a watchful eye over the proceedings - This however is not enough, why do not they act before it is too late!'. The following year, the government banned the Catholic Association for three years. However, the Association proved successful in by-passing the act.

The short letter Ne C 5271 contains Peel's response to the Catholic Relief Bill of 1825. This passed the House of Commons successfully and threatened the future of Lord Liverpool's government. Liverpool and Peel came close to resignation on the issue. The Bill was ultimately defeated in the House of Lords after a passionate speech by the Duke of York (the heir to the throne). Newcastle entertained many doubts about the Prime Minister's attitude to the Catholic Relief Bill of 1825. In Ne C 5329, Lord Kenyon (an ultra-Tory colleague) assures Newcastle of Lord Liverpool's continuing opposition to the measure.

Although Ne C 6990 dates from the period of the Reform Bill (1832), it contains an interesting personal defence by Croker - a leading Tory politician and essayist - of his support for Emancipation. Newcastle was unwilling to forgive those who had supported Emancipation. However, whilst Croker acknowledged his lifelong support for Catholic Relief, he disapproved of the circumstances in which it was finally achieved. Newcastle re-visited the issue of Catholic Emancipation in a collection of public letters and addresses which he published in 1837. Complimentary copies were sent to a range of social, literary and political figures. In Ne C 5448, Croker repeats the distinction that he had made five years earlier: he supported Emancipation but was dissatisfied at its nature and timing.

The Duke of Wellington's government announced its intention to pass a Catholic Relief Bill in February 1829. Rather than resign, Peel supported the measure and helped pilot it through the House of Commons. Newcastle encouraged declarations of opposition to the measure, in the form of petitions and public addresses (Ne C 6765). The Duke expected support from his tenants in Aldborough and Boroughbridge in Yorkshire and Newark-upon-Trent in Nottinghamshire. Newcastle was often in dispute with his agents and stewards. In Ne C 6694/1, Edward Smith Godfrey defends his principled support for the Catholic cause against Newcastle's charge of disloyalty. Godfrey's prominent place in Newark life meant that public signs of disagreement with the Duke might impact upon the family's local interests.

Anti-Catholic Sentiment

There was no shortage of hostile anti-Catholic publications, in the form of pamphlets, handbills and broadsheets, in the early nineteenth century. One example, Ne C 5127, preserved amongst Newcastle's papers, contains many familiar criticisms of the Catholics.

Newcastle's status as a well-known opponent of Emancipation made him a popular subject for like-minded correspondents. The detailed letter from an 'Irish Protestant' (Ne C 5255) relays many of the more common assumptions levelled against Catholics during the period. The historic feud between Catholics and Protestants, since the Reformation, is brought up-to-date and given an Irish context. Particular stress is placed on the 1790s. The decade witnessed the foundation of the Orange Order to defend Protestantism and saw the unsuccessful rebellion of 1798. This encouraged the British government to pursue the Act of Union with Ireland. The letter suggests that British governments have been mistaken in conciliating Catholics since the time of the 'Glorious Revolution' (1688).

In July 1828, Daniel O'Connell was elected as M.P. for County Clare. This created a political crisis because O'Connell, as a Catholic, would be unable to take his seat in Parliament. Both the 'Catholic' (pro-Emancipation) and 'Protestant' (anti-Emancipation) camps were busy during the autumn. Brunswick Clubs were formed to demonstrate the strength of anti-catholic feeling. They were supported by prominent peers and M.P.s, including Newcastle, Chandos and Winchilsea. 'Protestants' looked for any sign of government concession to 'Catholics' in public speeches and declarations. (Ne C 5344)

Newcastle travelled to Kent for a major gathering of 'Protestants' and 'Catholics' at Penenden Heath in October 1828. However, as his letter to Lincoln (Ne C 12851) reveals, Newcastle was persuaded not to attend. As a prominent opponent of Emancipation, whose views were published in letters which appeared in the press, Newcastle was viewed as a controversial figure whose presence would generate trouble. Newcastle felt the 'mortification' deeply.

Ne C 5356/1-2, from the Irish clergyman and writer Richard Grier, contains a statement of the political and religious case against Catholic Emancipation. Grier stresses that Catholics, being subject to the authority of the Pope and opposed to the Protestant Church, are unfit to receive political rights. Indeed, 'the investment of Papists with political power, would be to impose on them a cruel responsibility, which their Souls disdained and their consciences abhorred.' Reference is made to a number of writers on the Emancipation issue (including Henry Phillpotts and Sir Harcourt Lees) in support of this argument.

Support for Emancipation was embodied in declarations and addresses to Parliament, as well as in the activities of the Catholic Association and the pro-Catholic press. This declaration (My 166) was circulated to pro-Emancipation supporters during 1828 - a year in which the political stand-off between 'Protestants' and 'Catholics' reached its height.

Ne C 5131 refers to the Wellington ministry's decision to introduce a Catholic Relief Bill, in February 1829, which generated a number of hostile responses. These were circulated in newspapers, pamphlets, broadsheets and handbills. Opponents seized upon anything which might arouse public hostility, in the hope that Parliament and the King would ultimately reject the Bill. In fact, it passed through the Commons and Lords successfully and received the Royal Assent on 13 April 1829.

Newcastle's anti-Catholicism

The brief but threatening attack on Newcastle in Ne C 5262 shows that, in spite of his openly displayed opposition to Catholic Emancipation, he was not above being abused for his political views by (anonymous) correspondents. Newcastle's public letters and addresses on Catholic Emancipation were republished (in book form) in 1837. This generated a new round of correspondence on the issue from readers. 'A.J.', the author of Ne C 5447, took the opportunity to call for the repeal of the Catholic Relief Act - a cause which Newcastle (unsuccessfully) moved in Parliament later in the year. Many contemporaries argued that Emancipation had worsened, rather than solved, Ireland's problems.

George Wingfield used his letter to Newcastle (Ne C 5472/1-2) to point out a number of differences of religious interpretation between them. However, the letter also showed that the passions aroused by Emancipation had not gone away. It continued to influence opinions concerning Wellington and Peel, who had been responsible for passing it.


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