The Catholic Emancipation Act

In 1829, partly in response to widespread agitation throughout Ireland led by Daniel O'Connell's Catholic Association and the possiblity of revolution in Ireland, the Catholic Emancipation Act, enabling Catholics to sit in the British Parliament at Westminister, was passed. (Wohl)

A little bit more context for why there had to be a catholic emancipation act.  In 1800, the Act of Union created the United Kingdom by merging Great Britain and Ireland.  This made parliament directly responsible for Irish affairs and had direct responsibility for the fate of a number of Roman Catholics equal to more than a third of the total population of England and Wales.(Chadwick)

So the Roman Catholics, who were mostly Irish, had no say in parliament in their governing body and union for almost 30 years.  What is interesting to see in this fight for rights and after the Catholics finally got emancipation—how each side saw this act.  The Catholics would see this as being able to have more say and deservingly enough since they are a big portion of the population. While the Church of England saw this emancipation as a major loss, letting Catholics be able to have any say in the dealings of their established church.  Which is ironic seeing as they have had say in the lives of the Catholic Church all the way up to this point.

This power struggle gives more light and context of our reading of North and South.  When Margaret learns that her brother is a Roman Catholic, there is a moment of interpersonal confusion on how to see her brother since he isn't part of the Church of England.  But at the same time she thinks of her dad, and how he gave up his position as minister in the church and she doesn't really know where everyone stands in religion and in class.  She realizes that in regards to her brother she might be the same, where as before, she would be entitled to think herself above a Catholic because of her dad holding a position in the Church of England.

Overall this emancipation would lead to a more pluralistic society with more religions gaining more rights, although there would still be internal and external discrimination, as we saw from the internal thoughts of Margaret.


Works Cited

 Chadwick, Owen. The Victorian Church. London: Adam & Charles Black. 1966.

 Wohl, A. (2018, June 18, Created 1989). Catholic Emancipation. Catholic emacipation. Accessed October 29, 2021,

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

13 Apr 1829