The influence of the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland reached its peak in
the 18th century, politically due to the loss of voting and office-holding
privileges of the Catholic majority. By 1778 the continued persecution of
native Catholics resulted in their ownership of a meager 5% of Irish land.
All was not negative during for Ireland during the 18th century because
there were dramatic improvements to Ireland's infrastructure including
the construction of road and canal networks to help facilitate a growing
In the latter part of 18th century Ireland, rural protest movements were a
common reaction to laws imposing new taxes, payment of tithes, enclosure
of lands, high rents, etc. These movements became the precursors of more
organized political movements in later years. In 1761 the Whiteboy
movement began in the south. The Oakboys started in the north in 1763.
In 1769 the Steelboy disturbances began in Antrim, and in 1785 the
Rightboy movement started in Munster.
After France declared war on England in 1778, a Volunteer corps was
set up to help defend Ireland (and ulitmately England) from possible
invasion. The 'Volunteers' soon began to wield their organized military
power to win political and economic concessions from England. The
extra-parliamentary lobbying of the 'Volunteers' was instrumental
in securing Free Trade for Ireland in 1780 and legislative
independence in 1782.
As the political climate changed in the 1780's more political factions
came on the scene with the emergence of the Catholic 'Defenders' in
to resist disarming raids carried on by Protestant
groups such as the Peep O’Day Boys (making their raids in early morning).
The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 encouraged the Protestant and
Presbyterian middle-class to campaign for reform of the representative
system under the banner of the 'United Irishmen' in the mid 1790's.
Theobald Wolfe Tone, one of its notable leaders, publishes a pamphlet
entitled "An argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland".
The United Irishmen tried to unite Dissenters and Catholics, as well as
all Irishmen, against Anglican rule.
As a result of fears of revolution sweeping Europe (and having lost
America), the Act for the Relief of 1793 was passed in an effort to appease
the large Irish population persecuted by the earlier Penal Laws; mainly
Catholics, Presbyterians and Dissenters.
As a reaction to movements such as the United Irishmen and the
Catholic Defenders, the Protestent-based Orange Boys formed in 1795.
They became the Orange Order, named for the victor at the Battle of
the Boyne, William of Orange.
The alliance of the Catholic 'Defenders' and 'United Irishmen' along
revolutionary lines, as well as the new-found alliance with France,
resulted in attempted invasion. In 1796 the French under Admiral Hoche,
persuaded by Wolfe Tone, sailed to Bantry Bay only to be turned back
by bad weather.
As troubles continued to brew the Government, fearing an Irish
uprising, had many of the leaders of the United Irishmen arrested in
March, 1798. A valiant yet poorly coordinated uprising soon followed.
The Rising of 1798
Rebellion breaks out in Dublin - May 24, 1798
defeat at Kilcullen, Co. Kildare - May 24, 1798
defeat at Naas, Co. Kildare - May 24, 1798
defeat at Prosperous, Co. Kildare - May 24, 1798
defeat at Carlow, Co. Carlow - May 25, 1789
defeat at Tara Hill, Co. Meath - May 26, 1798
Battle of the Harrow, Co. Wexford - May 26, 1798
engagement at Clane, Co. Kildare - May 24/27, 1798
engagement at Monasterevin, Co. Kildare - May 24/27, 1798
engagement at Lucan, Co. Dublin - May 24/27, 1798
engagement at Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin - May 24/27, 1798
engagement at Tallaght, Co. Dublin - May 24/27, 1798
engagement at Dunboyne, Co. Meath - May 26/27, 1798
victory at Oulart Hill, Gorey, Co. Wexford - May 27, 1798
defeat at The Curragh, Co. Kildare - May 29, 1798
victory at Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford - May 29, 1798
victory at Wexford, Co. Wexford - May 30, 1798
Battle of Bunclody - June 1, 1798
Battle of Tubberneering - June 4, 1798
defeat at New Ross, Co. Wexford - June 5, 1798
Protestant losses at Scullabogue, Co. Wexford - June 5, 1798
defeat at Antrim, Co. Antrim - June 7, 1798
victory at Saintfield, Co. Down - June, 1798
victory at Newtownards, Co. Down - June, 1798
defeat at Arklow, Co. Wexford - June 9, 1798
defeat at Ballynahinch, Co. Down - June 12/13, 1798
Battle at Kilcavan Hill, near Carnew, Co. Wicklow - June 18, 1798
Battle of Foulksmills, Co. Wexford - June 20, 1798
defeat at Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford - June 21, 1798
defeat at Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow - June, 1798
defeat at Kilconnell Hill, Co. Wicklow - June, 1798
defeat at Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath - June, 1798
Wexford march and battle at Killedmond, Co. Carlow - June 22, 1798
Battle at Goresbridge, Co. Kilkenny - June 23, 1798
Humbert Invasion at Killala Bay, Co. Mayo - August 22, 1798
Humbert victory at Ballina, Co. Mayo - August 24, 1798
Humbert victory at Castlebar, Co. Mayo - August 27, 1798
Humbert defeat at Ballinamuck Co. Longford - September 8, 1798
French force under Tandy makes brief landing at Rutland Island, Co Donegal - September 16, 1798
Remaining Irish forces at Killala defeated - September 23, 1798
Defeat of small French invasion fleet under Bombard at Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal - October 20, 1798
The rebellion had failed due to a lack of participation, coordination,
and because of superior Government firepower (e.g. cannons). Support from the
French was too little, too late and in the wrong place. Perhaps 25,000
rebels and civilians died in the fighting, with far fewer casualties on
the side of the Irish Loyalists.
As a consequence of the 1798 rebellion the British passed the Act
of Union in 1800, which abolished the Irish Parliament and laid the
foundations for Anglo-Irish relations for the next century. ‘A United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’ became official in 1801.
With efforts at Catholic reform continuing, the Catholic Association was
founded by Daniel O'Connell in 1823. Their efforts resulted in 1829 in the
granting of Catholic rights to hold office in parliament.
Population growth in the latter 18th and early 19th century had expanded
the population of Ireland to nearly 7 million by 1820. With a down-turn in
the economy large-scale emigration began, which resulted in an estimated
one million people emigrating from Ireland to North America between 1815
and 1845. Another 500,000 moved to Britain in the early 19th century.
The growing dependence on a single agricultural crop, to largely meet
economic and nutritional needs of the Irish, sets the stage for a calamity
beyond all expectations beginning in the mid-1840's.