Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuesday's Tip: The Act of Union Black list

This Tuesday's Tip is not a tip as such, but another resource page I am adding to this blog. The content of this page is a little sticky, so to speak, because it is a 'Black List' of those individuals who were called out for changing their vote, and thus voting in favour of the Act of Union** in 1800. With respect to family history, whether or not we agree with the decisions made by the men named on the Black List, we must remember they had family, and they may have descendants.

The source of this list is a book which I purchased at an auction of historical ephemera in Ireland in 2010. Written by Sir Jonah Barrington, and published in 1833, it bears what has to be the longest book title and subtitle I have ever seen. It is entitled,
"The Rise and Fall of The Irish Nation: 
A full account of the Bribery and Corruption by which the Union was carried
The Family Histories of the members who voted
away the Irish Parliament,
With an Extraordinary Black List
 of the Titles, Places, and Pensions which They received for their corrupt votes."

According to Sir Jonah Barrington, those who initially had been against the Act of Union sold their principles — and their souls — for financial and political gain by changing their minds and voting against Ireland and for the Act of Union with Great Britain.

Although Sir Barrington's strong opinions about those who changed their vote might lead us to believe that everyone could be bought off, this was not the case. Some of those who changed their votes did so because they were convinced the Act would lead to reform, both parliamentary and economic, and would include Catholic emancipation. Whether or not they accepted bribes, the names of those who changed their votes and voted for the Act of Union appear on the Black List.

There are 140 names on the Black List. Under the heading 'Observations', Sir Barrington includes some biographical information about some of these individuals, and adds details of any payoff to them. With an acid tongue, Barrington occasionally inserts his opinion of them. Of his observations Barrington remarks, "As the capitulation was disgusting, the discussion must be severe."


Are any of your ancestors on the Act of Union Black List?


What was the Act of Union?

Here follows a very brief and simplified history of The Act of Union 1800/1801:

Tabled in 1800, passed into law in August of that year, and effected on 1 January 1801, the Act of Union joined Ireland to Great Britain as the single kingdom called The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Buoyed by the ideals of the French Revolution, including religious emancipation, many Irish, such as Theobald Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen, saw breaking free from Britain as the way forward to liberty and democracy for all. In order to prevent Ireland from supporting France in war against Britain — remember the French landed in County Mayo to aid the United Irishmen in the 1798 Rising — and to quell the fervour for liberty and fraternity, Britain sought to rein in Ireland with the Act of Union. As I mentioned above, some believed Ireland would benefit from the Act.

Once the Act of Union was passed into law, matters became more clear about what would actually be the case:

1. The Irish Parliament at Dublin was abolished, so no longer could Irish members of Parliament debate the fate of Ireland in Ireland. With the Act, Ireland was now represented at Westminster by one hundred Members of Parliament, 4 Lords Spiritual (bishops of the Anglican Church who served in the House of Lords) and 28 Lords Temporal (secular members of the House of Lords). Every single representative had to be Anglican.

2. King George III's disdain for Catholics was enshrined in the Act. He forbade Catholic Emancipation in Ireland, citing the fact that upon his coronation he had sworn an oath to uphold Anglicanism. Further, he ordered that no Catholics were permitted to hold public office.

3. The Anglican Church was made the official Church of Ireland.

4. There was to be free trade between Ireland and the rest of Britain (although this did not prevent tariffs from being imposed on Irish goods).

5. Ireland had to have a separate Exchequer, that is a national treasury, and from these monies Ireland had to pay for two-seventeenths of the so called 'general expenses' of the entire United Kingdom. This worked out to Ireland paying about 12% of the Kingdom's bills.

Overall, you have to agree it was not such a great 'union' for Ireland. They should have requested a pre-nup.

The dissolution of Éire's union with the United Kingdom began with the declaration of Irish independence, the opening volley of the 1916 Easter Rising. That declaration was ratified in 1919 by the newly created and secret Dáil Eireann, after which the War of Independence ensued. The Irish Free State was established in 1922. Ireland enshrined its independence in the constitution of 1937, and any remaining ties with the union were entirely severed in 1949. Independent Ireland, called Éire, and described as The Republic of Ireland, is no longer subject to the Act of Union, and therefore is not part of the United Kingdom (the State of Northern Ireland remains part of the UK).

Oddly enough, the Irish government did not officially remove the Act of Union from the law books in Ireland until 1983, and although it no longer applies, the Act of Union remains on the law books of the UK.

**Note: Since the union had to be approved in each parliament, there were actually two Acts of Union governing the union of Ireland with Great Britain. One was passed in the British Parliament in July of 1800, and the other was passed in the Irish Parliament in August of 1800. Both came into effect on 1 January 1801.



  1. This is a fascinating post about a troubling time for many. I cannot imagine the pressures that must have been on some of the people who changed their votes. It would have had reverberations for generations.

    1. Hi Linda,

      Thank you for your comments. They are much appreciated. It is too true that the Act of Union did indeed have reverberations for generations to come.



Comments on this blog are always deeply appreciated; however, in the spirit of true collegiality, I ask that you do not write something you would not say to me in person.

This blog is CAPTCHA free, but because of spammers, comments moderation is in operation for posts older than two days.

Any comments that are mean-spirited, include URLs which are not connected to the post topic, contain misinformation, or in any way resemble advertising, will be removed.

Cheers, Jennifer

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...