Radical Ideology, Popular Politics and Parliamentary Reform

Part of the Studies in Modern History book series (SMH)


In stressing the legal, open and constitutional character of the United Irishmen and of the Catholic Committee during the first half of the 1790s, historians have, by implication, underestimated the seriousness of the crises of 1792–3. They have failed to grasp the political extremism of protagonists on all sides. As a logical corollary of this too stark a contrast has been drawn between the earlier period and the overtly revolutionary years from 1795 to the 1798 rebellion. Catholics and radicals made a concerted appeal to a popular constituency before 1795, and the ‘constitutional’ phase needs to be re-examined in that light.1 As the great wave of catholic agitation subsided, political tensions were sustained by an intensifying campaign for parliamentary reform. On 13 March, 1793, Under-Secretary Cooke reported to Whitehall, ‘We have been on the eve of rebellion these three months and nothing but the forces of the establishment has saved us’2


Volunteer Revival French Revolution Irish Radical Irish Society American Revolution 
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  1. 3.
    Sean Cronin, Irish nationalism, a history of its roots and ideology (Dublin, 1980), 46, Dub. Soc., 7.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Isaac Kramnick (ed.), Thomas Paine, Common Sense (Harmondsworth, 1982), 76.Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    Staughton Lynd, Intellectual origins of American radicalism (Harvard, 1982), 46–48.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    See, for example, McDowell, ‘The personnel of the Dublin Society of United Irishmen, 1791–4’, I.H.S. ii (1941), 12–53.Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    F. MacDermot, ‘Arthur O’Connor’, I.H.S., xv, no. 57 (1966), 49.Google Scholar
  6. 35.
    J. H. Billington Fire in the minds of men, origins of the revolutionary faith (London, 1980 ), 92.Google Scholar
  7. 81.
    See T. M. Parssinen, ‘Association, convention and anti-parliament in British radical politics, 1771–1848’, English Historical Review, lxxxviii, no. 348 (1973), 504–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Jim Smyth 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Notre DameUSA

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