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Lecture – The Language of Emancipation: electoral reform and print culture in north-east England, 1819-1840
December 7, 2017 @ 7:30 pm - 10:00 pmFree
The Language of Emancipation: electoral reform and print culture in north-east England, 1819-1840
Dr Joan Allen (Newcastle University)
Before 1823 when Daniel O Connell set up the Catholic Association and drove forward his surprisingly successful campaign for equal public and political rights, Roman Catholics were socially, economically and politically disadvantaged. Most particularly, they resented being excluded from sitting as MPs, voting in elections, and holding most senior government offices. This paper aims to explore the complex regional response to Catholic Emancipation in 1829, and then the later tensions that surfaced between Irish Radicals and Tyneside Chartists between 1837 and 1840. In the first instance, it will consider the deep ambiguities surrounding the use of the term ‘emancipation’ and the way that this became a site of contestation. Although it was the preferred nomenclature on both sides of the controversy, William Cobbett’s weekly Political Register denounced this as ‘ridiculous’, arguing that the legislation fell far short of delivering the freedoms and social equity that were needed. Subsequently, Chartists in the North East of England engaged in a bitter public debate about the failings of O’Connell and the limitations of emancipation which, for them, could only mean an enlarged democracy. Whilst O’Connell certainly obstructed the effort to build a united front on this question, so too did the ingrained anti-Catholicism of some sections of the Chartist movement.