The Age of George III
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From about 1760 a Patriot Party, led by Henry Flood, appeared in the Irish House of Representatives. The Patriot Party advocated reforms, and won a great deal of popular support. To reassert English authority, George III ordered the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to take up permanent residence in Dublin. This was issued as policy by Grafton's government in 1768.
The 'undertakers' managed the Irish parliament; their means were corrupt and their aim was to earn favours from the Lord Lieutenant. Since 1760, however, they had become unruly. When they chose to raise their demands they were in a powerful position, so long as they maintained a united front. They could not only block business in the Dublin parliament, but they could also rouse popular opposition to British measures. The job of the Lord Lieutenant was to prevent the 'undertakers' from posing as reformers.
The American War of Independence gave the Irish a chance to win concessions from England. Troops had been sent to America from Ireland, leaving Ireland exposed to threats of foreign invasion. The Irish Protestants formed militia units - the Irish Volunteers - which became an armed political force. The leader of the Volunteers were prominent Patriots, particularly Henry Grattan, who replaced Flood as leader of the Patriot party. He managed to get restrictions lifted on Irish trade and industry by threatening to use the Volunteers against the British if Irish demands were not met. Grattan was a reformer and an orator second only (perhaps) to Chatham. He was an Anglican, devoted to removing the disabilities suffered by Roman Catholics. He said, "The Irish Protestant cannot be free until the Irish Catholic ceases to be a slave". Grattan was opposed by government officials in Ireland who were hostile to reform of any kind.
In 1782, Rockingham repealed Poyning's Law and the 1719 Irish Declaratory Act. The Irish parliament became almost free for the first time in 300 years.
The French Revolution put paid to any meaningful advances, although economically Ireland began to pick up, exporting surplus food to England's towns. Trade developed, helped by government cash.
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Last modified 26 October, 2013
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